Stirling Silliphant

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Stirling Dale Silliphant
Born January 16, 1918
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Died April 26, 1996 (age 78)
Occupation Screenwriter; producer
Spouse(s) Tiana Alexandra (1974-1996; his death); 1 child

Stirling Dale Silliphant (January 16, 1918 – April 26, 1996) was an American screenwriter and producer. His father, Sterling Silliphant, was a Canadian who immigrated to the United States in 1911, becoming a U.S. citizen in 1916. His mother was Ethel M. Silliphant. He had one brother, Leigh, who was three years younger.

Born in Detroit, Michigan, his family moved to Glendale, California when he was a child. He graduated from Hoover High School, and was educated at the University of Southern California. He may be best known for his screenplay for In the Heat of the Night and co-creating the television series Route 66. Other features as screenwriter include the Irwin Allen productions The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure, adapting both films from previously published novels. In the case of The Towering Inferno, he was tasked with blending two entirely unrelated novels into a single screenplay.[citation needed]

He was a close friend of Bruce Lee, under whom he studied martial arts. Lee was featured in the Silliphant-penned detective movie Marlowe and four episodes of the series Longstreet. Silliphant reportedly recommended Lee for action choreography work. They had been working on a philosophical martial arts script, The Silent Flute (later known as Circle of Iron), which was to star Lee and James Coburn, and the pre-production even went to the extent of all three going to India on a location hunt.[citation needed]

Output[edit]

Silliphant was a film and television writer with more than 700 hours of prime-time television drama to his credit, many of which earned Emmys for their producers, directors, and cast members. However, he never received an Emmy personally as writer. Time in 1967 referred to him in a feature article with the statement: "The moving finger...having written, moved on!"[citation needed]

Production manager, Sam Manners, called him from the road unit of Route 66 from El Paso, Texas. He told Stirling they could save perhaps a hundred thousand dollars if Stirling could write an extra story for the show that could be shot in El Paso while all the production trucks and crew were there. Silliphant obliged and had the script ready to shoot in a couple of days. The guest star was Albert Dekker, who was flown to do the part over the weekend.[citation needed]

Television[edit]

In the earlier part of his career, he was publicity director for Walt Disney, and was lead writer on the stories incorporated into The Mickey Mouse Club. He produced several independent films such as 5 Against the House with Kim Novak, Huk! and Maracaibo. Later he broke into television, writing for the live Playhouse 90. Perry Mason and Alfred Hitchcock Presents soon followed.[citation needed]

Silliphant was known for his involvement in two TV series of the sixties, Route 66 and Naked City. Silliphant was quoted as saying that a number of his Naked City scripts were far superior to the script that won him the Oscar for In the Heat of the Night. One of his later series creations was Longstreet, which featured a blind detective played by James Franciscus who had also starred in the first season of The Naked City.

He wrote three television miniseries: Pearl (about the attack on Pearl Harbor), Space (based on the James Michener novel about America's early space program), and Mussolini: The Untold Story. He wrote the script for a never-produced TV miniseries of Atlas Shrugged, the novel by Ayn Rand.[citation needed]

Film[edit]

In total he wrote or co-wrote 47 feature films, including Village of the Damned, the Charles Bronson spy thriller Telefon, The Liberation of L.B. Jones, The Killer Elite, the Dirty Harry film The Enforcer and Over the Top (the latter with its star Sylvester Stallone).

In addition to the Academy Award, In the Heat of the Night also earned Silliphant an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America, for Best Motion Picture Screenplay. He helped to pull film concepts together. He penned the screenplay for Shaft in Africa, the third film in the Shaft series. With Chatrichalerm Yukol, he co-wrote the screenplay to the 1994 Thai action film, Salween. His last screenplay was for the 1995 film, The Grass Harp. Although he worked constantly in Hollywood, he had a well-known aversion against living in Southern California, where he had grown up. After he became successful and famous, he built a house for himself and his family in Tiburon, California and commuted regularly by air to Los Angeles.[citation needed]

Death[edit]

He died in in 1996. His work papers are archived at UCLA's Westwood campus.[citation needed]

External links[edit]