America lost one of its great men of letters today with the sad news that novelist, playwright, essayist and screenwriter Gore Vidal had passed away. In his honor, we've rounded up five of his most notable screen credits below -- check them out and you might be pleasantly surprised.
Suddenly, Last Summer
Vidal's adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play was a real steeped-in-the-south gothic mystery, with the protagonist being a young woman (screen legend Elizabeth Taylor) who is hospitalized -- and potentially going to be lobotomized -- after being scarred by witnessing a cousin's death. The Hollywood-legend cast is rounded out with Katherine Hepburn and Montgomery Clift -- what's not to like?
The Best Man
Recently performed on Broadway with James Earl Jones, Vidal adapted his play into a film in 1964 starring another screen legend, Henry Fonda, along with Lee Tracy, who was nominated for an Oscar for his performance. The story revolves around the backroom political maneuverings involving two men who are vying for the Presidential nomination. Always shrewd, Vidal's eye for political goings-on never failed to disappoint.
Released in a sea of controversy, the Bob Guccione-produced story of the great Roman emperor Caligula (played here by Malcolm McDowell) was penned by Vidal, though he later tried to distance himself from the film after it was poorly received. Regardless, due to the sheer spectacle and production value of the film, it's certainly a title worth revisiting.
If you thought Caligula was controversial, well, you ain't seen nothing yet. Wildly scandalous when Vidal published his novel Myra Breckinridge in 1968, the film adaptation, released two years later (which Vidal had nothing to do with), was equally soup-stirring. The reason? Oh, no big deal, just that the film concerns a transsexual in the process of gender reassignment surgery (Raquel Welch, believe it or not) who goes about preying on one of the students in her Hollywood acting class in a very, very aggressive manner. Featuring acts that would be shocking to see onscreen even today, the film was camp, through and through, but the novel -- an intelligent satire of contemporary gender relations -- had its fair share of defenders.
Is Paris Burning?
Of course everyone knows that there was an awful lot of drama surrounding the occupation and liberation of Paris, but one gets the sense that no one really grasps it until they see Is Paris Burning? A sadly forgotten Hollywood classic that tells the story of how Paris was liberated and how it was almost totally destroyed by the Germans -- and would have been were it nor for one courageous German officer who refused to blast such a beautiful city to smithereens. Vidal wrote the script with a young Francis Ford Coppola and between the two of them there was enough screenwriting talent to power an entire studio's worth of output for a couple of years. Featuring American and French stars alike (Kirk Douglas, Alain Delon, Yves Montand), the film certainly wasn't lacking for acting power. Watch it and prepare to be moved.
A man of many talents, Gore Vidal's screenwriting output is often overlooked due to his famous novels and essay collections -- in fact, many people don't even realize he wrote any films. Hopefully this shines a little bit of light on just how prodigious his output was. Now get thee to Netflix! And if you have any other Vidal recommendations, let us know!