Lorenzo Semple, Jr.
|Lorenzo Semple, Jr.|
March 27, 1923 |
Lorenzo Semple Jr. (born March 27, 1923) is an American screenwriter and sometime playwright, best known for his work on the campy television series Batman and the political/paranoia movie thrillers The Parallax View (1974) and Three Days of the Condor (1975).
Semple's writing career started in 1951, as a short story contributor to magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post and Collier's Weekly. Semple also tried writing for the theatre and had two plays produced on Broadway, Tonight in Samarkand (1955), a melodrama adapted from the French, and the comedy The Golden Fleecing (1959). The latter was bought by MGM and produced under the title The Honeymoon Machine, starring Steve McQueen, following which Semple relocated to Hollywood and established himself as a writer for several television shows, including Kraft Suspense Theatre, Burke's Law, and The Rat Patrol.
Number One Son
"I wrote a pilot called, Number One Son about Charlie Chan’s son. A story set in San Francisco. I wrote the script which was okay, everybody liked it, which is about all you can expect, and we were thinking about casting and everything then ABC called William Dozier saying, 'This is very embarrassing but word just came down we’re not to do any program with an ethnic lead.' They didn’t want a Chinese person in it. So they said, 'We’re very embarrassed but we owe you one.'"
While living in Spain in 1965, Semple was approached by producer William Dozier to develop a television series for ABC based on the comic book Batman. Semple wrote a pilot which was promptly picked up, and the series based on it put on the air, with popular success. Semple wrote the first four episodes. Semple also served as Executive Story Editor, a capacity in which he put his writing imprint on all of the first season's scripts, and at the same time provided the screenplay for the 1966 Batman feature film version.
He also wrote one double episode of the television series "Green Hornet", called "Beautiful Dreamer" which was broadcast in October of 1966.
Following Batman, Semple never wrote for television again and his screenwriting jobs took an often serious tone. His script for the critically acclaimed cult film Pretty Poison (1968) won the award of the New York Film Critics Circle Awards as best screenplay of its year. "Fox, 20th Century Fox, hated the movie (Pretty Poison). They really hated it. They released it at only one theatre in New York on the upper west side. Just one theatre without any press screening. It happen that–Pauline Kael was independently a friend of mine. She called up Joe Morgenstern who was a critic in the Wall Street Journal. She said, 'Joe, there’s a movie that’s so terrible that Fox won’t let us see it and put it out at one theatre. Let’s go see what kind of movie that was. Maybe we can really beat Fox over the head' and they loved the movie. So, naturally, they wildly over-praised it, in my opinion. They started a movement for it..."
Following Condor, he wrote several movies for producer Dino De Laurentiis, including the popular but critically assailed King Kong-remake (1976); Hurricane (1979), a major box office flop starring Mia Farrow, on which Semple is also credited as Executive Producer; and Flash Gordon (1980), again a comic book derivative, done in a deliberately over-the-top style reminiscent of the "Batman" sensibility. As with his Batman, serious comic-book devotees assailed Semple for the allegedly disrespectful approach he took to the printed originals.
After Never Say Never Again (1983), a non-Eon Productions film in the James Bond series which brought Sean Connery briefly back in the role, Semple dipped his pen for a final time into the comic book fountain for Sheena (1984), based on the comic book Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.
In September 2008, he was hailed by the Writers Guild of America as a Living Legend. In 2010, the American Cinemateque presented a two-night retrospective of his movies in Santa Monica.
- Batman (1966)
- Fathom (1967)
- Pretty Poison (1968)
- Daddy's Gone A-Hunting (with Larry Cohen) (1969)
- The Sporting Club (1971)
- The Marriage of a Young Stockbroker (1971)
- Papillion (with Dalton Trumbo) (1973)
- The Super Cops (1974)
- The Parallax View (with David Giler) (1974)
- The Drowning Pool (1975)
- Three Days of the Condor (with David Rayfiel) (1975)
- King Kong (1976)
- Hurricane (with Tracy Keenan Wynn and Walter Hill) (1977)
- Flash Gordon (with Michael Allin) (1980)
- Never Say Never Again (1983)
- Sheena (with David Newman) (1984)
- Never Too Young to Die (with Gil Bettman) (1986)
- The Alcoa Hour (1955)
- Target (1958)
- Pursuit (1958)
- The Rogues (1964)
- Burke's Law (1964)
- Batman (1966)
- Thompson's Ghost (1966)
- The Rat Patrol (1966)
- The Green Hornet (1966)
- Rearview Mirror (1984)
- Rapture (1993)
- "The New York Times". The New York Times.
- Fitchett, Joseph (1996-03-26). "Q & A / Lorenzo Semple Jr.: The Oscars: A Look Behind the Scenes". The New York Times.
- "Starlog" (USA) October 1983, Vol. 6, Iss. 75, pg. 45-47,+54, by: Steve Swires, "Lorenzo Semple, Jr. : The Screenwriter Fans Love to Hate Part Two"