William Peter Blatty
|William Peter Blatty|
January 7, 1928 |
New York City
|Occupation||Novelist, screenwriter, film director|
|Alma mater||Georgetown University|
|Genres||Horror, drama, comedy|
William Peter Blatty (born January 7, 1928) is an American writer and filmmaker. The novel The Exorcist, written in 1971, is his most well-known novel; he also penned the subsequent screenplay version of the film, for which he won an Academy Award. He also wrote and directed the sequel, The Exorcist III: Legion.
His most recent works include the novels Elsewhere (2009), Dimiter (2010), and Crazy (2010). He is also featured in the upcoming 2014 Smoke And Mirrors anthology, featuring the teleplay "Hell Hospital" and the treatment "Faith".
In 2013, Demons Five, Exorcist Nothing: A Fable (1996) and Dimiter (2010) were re-released as revised editions with new covers and interior artwork. Each were limited to 250 signed copies.
Blatty was born in New York City, the son of Lebanese parents who came to America on a cattle boat, Mary (née Mouakad), niece of Bishop Germanos Mouakad, who founded the Missionary Society of St. Paul in The Lebanon, and Peter Blatty, a cloth cutter in a garment factory. His father left home when William was three years old. He was raised in what he described as "comfortable destitution" by his deeply religious Catholic mother, whose sole support came from peddling homemade quince jelly in the streets of New York; she once offered a jar of it to Franklin D. Roosevelt when the President was cutting the ribbon for the Queens Midtown Tunnel, telling him, "For when you have company". He lived at twenty-eight different addresses during his childhood due to constant evictions by landlords for non-payment of rent.
He attended Brooklyn Preparatory, a Jesuit school, on scholarship at a time when Joe Paterno was the football team's quarterback, graduated as class valedictorian in 1946, and then attended Georgetown University on a scholarship. He went on to The George Washington University for his Master's degree in English Literature, for which he wrote a completely original thesis on the topic, "T.S. Eliot's Shakespearean Criticisms" (in which Blatty concluded that Eliot was "secretly jealous" of Shakespeare because the latter, unlike Eliot, was an "unconscious artist" who "wrote inspirationally as easily as he breathed.")
Between 1950 and 1952, he variously worked as a door-to-door salesman for the Electrolux Vacuum cleaner company, as a Gunther Beer truck relief driver, where he achieved a certain fame for burning out three truck clutches in six weeks, and as a ticket agent for United Airlines, all before escaping into the United States Air Force, where he ultimately became head of the Policy Branch of the USAF Psychological Warfare Division, about which he would write in his humorous autobiography, Which Way to Mecca, Jack?, that his "principal achievement" was formulating the principle that "a 500-pound sack of propaganda leaflets, if dropped from an altitude of 13,000 feet and provided it scored a direct hit, would drive one North Korean soldier approximately four feet into the ground."
Mustering out of the Air Force, he joined the United States Information Agency and worked as an editor stationed in Beirut, Lebanon. He had determined to return to Beirut after his three-month "home leave", but when a co-editor asked him in the kitchen of his Beirut apartment during the course of a farewell party, "Bill, what happened to the dream?" he changed his mind. The "dream" was a career in the world of acting, publishing and entertainment.
In the 1950s, Blatty worked as the public relations director at Loyola University of Los Angeles and as the Director of Publicity at the University of Southern California. Blatty later wrote an article published in the Saturday Evening Post about meeting movie stars in Hollywood while posing as "Prince Xeer", a fictitious blacksheep son of King Saud of Saudi Arabia. To promote his first book, Which Way to Mecca, Jack?, Blatty was a contestant on the Groucho Marx quiz show You Bet Your Life, winning $10,000: enough money to enable him to quit his job and write full-time.
In 1959, Blatty ghost-wrote "Dear Abby's" (Abigail van Buren's) bestselling book "Dear Teenager," for which she was praised for her "matronly wit and wisdom" and for which she was named "Mother of the Year," twin honors that the author "to this day" has professed he still isn't sure "how to feel about," and then in 1960 he published Which Way to Mecca, Jack?, which dealt humorously with both his early life and his work at the United States Information Agency in Lebanon. He then published the comic novels John Goldfarb, Please Come Home (1963), I, Billy Shakespeare (1965), and Twinkle, Twinkle, "Killer" Kane (1966). Though he achieved great critical success with these books – Marvin Levin in the New York Times, for example, led off a review with "Nobody can write funnier lines than William Peter Blatty, a gifted virtuoso who writes like (S.J.) Perelman", sales and commercial acceptance were lacking.
It was at this point that Blatty began a fruitful collaboration with director Blake Edwards, writing scripts for comedy films such as A Shot in the Dark (1964), What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? (1966), Gunn (1967), and Darling Lili (1970), a musical starring Julie Andrews and Rock Hudson. Without Edwards, Blatty also worked on comedy screenplays as "Bill Blatty", two such credits being the Danny Kaye film The Man from the Diner's Club (1963) and the Warren Beatty-Leslie Caron film "Promise Her Anything" (1965). Others were the film adaptation of John Goldfarb, Please Come Home! (1965), and The Great Bank Robbery (1969).
Later Blatty resumed novel writing. Allegedly retiring to a remote and rented chalet in woodland off Lake Tahoe, Blatty wrote The Exorcist, a story about a twelve-year-old girl being possessed by a powerful demon, that remained on the New York Times bestseller list for 57 straight weeks and at the Number One spot for 17 of them. It would eventually be translated by himself and director William Friedkin into one of the most famous mainstream horror movies of all time. Blatty would go on to win an Academy Award for his Exorcist screenplay, as well as Golden Globes for Best Picture (he produced the film) and Best Writing. He has made the claim that in its first weeks of publication, The Exorcist novel, despite excellent reviews and much advertising by the publisher, Harper and Row, was deemed a failure and was being returned by bookstores by "the carload" until what he calls "an extraordinary intervention by Providence" which he refuses to describe.
In 1978, Blatty adapted his novel Twinkle, Twinkle, "Killer" Kane! into the retitled The Ninth Configuration; and in 1980 he wrote, directed, and produced a film version. A meditation on God's existence described by one critic as "The Marx Brothers Meets Spellbound" and greeted as a "masterpiece" by The Cincinnati Post and "the finest large-scale American surrealist film ever made" by Peter Travers in People magazine, the film, nevertheless, was a commercial flop. It has since acquired a rather sizable cult following. In 1981 it was nominated for three Golden Globes, among them Best Picture, and won the Best Writing Award against competition that included The Elephant Man (1980), Ordinary People (1980), and Raging Bull (1980).
In 1983, he wrote a novel called Legion, a sequel to The Exorcist which later became the basis of the film The Exorcist III. Blatty originally wanted the movie version to be titled Legion but the film producers wanted it to be more closely linked to the original. The first sequel, Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) was disappointing both critically and commercially. Blatty had no involvement in this first sequel and his own follow-up ignored it entirely.
Blatty's autobiography is titled I'll Tell Them I Remember You (1974). A short critical essay on Blatty's work can be found in S. T. Joshi's book The Modern Weird Tale: A Critique of Horror Fiction (2001). Essays studying all Blatty's novels can be found in Benjamin Szumskyj's American Exorcist: Critical Essays on William Peter Blatty (McFarland, 2008).
Blatty's latest works are the novels Elsewhere (2009), Dimiter (2010) and Crazy (2010). Publishers Weekly awarded Dimiter a starred review calling it "a beautifully written, haunting tale of vengeance, spiritual searching, loss, and love." He is also set to be featured in the upcoming 2013 Smoke And Mirrors anthology, featuring the teleplay "Hell Hospital" and the treatment "Faith". According to Blatty, in his June 30 interview with "Authors on Tour", director William Friedkin has also set out to make Dimiter a feature film, marking their first collaboration in almost 40 years.
On September 27, 2011, The Exorcist was re-released as a 40th Anniversary Edition in paperback, hardcover and audiobook editions with differing cover artwork. This new, updated edition featured new and revised material: "The 40th Anniversary Edition of The Exorcist will have a touch of new material in it as part of an all-around polish of the dialogue and prose. First time around I never had the time (meaning the funds) to do a second draft, and this, finally, is it. With forty years to think about it, a few little changes were inevitable – plus one new character in a totally new very spooky scene. This is the version I would like to be remembered for."
- The Commonwealth Club Silver Medal for Literature ("The Exorcist")
- The Gabriel Award and American Film Festival Blue Ribbon for Blatty's "Insight" series TV episode, "Watts Made Out of Thread?"
- Knight of Mark Twain (For Novel "John Goldfarb, Please Come Home!)
- Saturn Awards for "The Exorcist" and for "The Ninth Configuration"
- The People's Choice Award for the Oscars" – Best Picture Award for "The Exorcist"
- The Horror Writers Association Lifetime Achievement Award.
- Academy Award, Best Adapted Screenplay ("The Exorcist")
- Golden Globe, Best Screenplay ("The Ninth Configuration")
- Golden Globe, Best Picture ("The Exorcist")
- Golden Globe, Best Screenplay ("The Exorcist")
- Which Way to Mecca, Jack? (1959)
- John Goldfarb, Please Come Home (1963)
- I, Billy Shakespeare! 1965
- Twinkle, Twinkle, "Killer" Kane (1966)
- The Exorcist (1971)
- The Ninth Configuration (1978)
- Legion (1983)
- Demons Five, Exorcists Nothing: A Fable (1996) / Revised and re-released in 2013, retitled Demons Five, Exorcists Nothing: A Hollywood Christmas Carol
- Elsewhere (2009) – Originally published as a novella in 1999 in Al Sarrantonio's 999: New Stories of Horror And Suspense anthology.
- Dimiter (2010) / Revised and re-released in 2013; also published under the title The Redemption
- Crazy (2010)
- The Exorcist For The 21st Century (2014)
- I'll Tell Them I Remember You (1973)
- William Peter Blatty on 'The Exorcist': From Novel to Screen (1974)
- If There Were Demons Then Perhaps There Were Angels: William Peter Blatty's Own Story of the Exorcist (1978)
- The Man From the Diner's Club (1963)
- A Shot in the Dark (1964 – co-screenplay)
- John Goldfarb, Please Come Home (1965)
- Promise Her Anything (1965)
- What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? (1966)
- Gunn (1967 – co-screenplay)
- The Great Bank Robbery (1969)
- Darling Lili (1970 – co-screenplay)
- The Exorcist (1973)
- Mastermind (1976 as "Terence Clyne")
- The Ninth Configuration (1980)
- The Exorcist III: Legion (1990)
- Zak, Dan (October 30, 2013). "William Peter Blatty, writer of 'The Exorcist,' slips back into the light for its 40th anniversary". The Washington Post.
- "Smoke and Mirrors: Cemetery Dance Publications". Cemeterydance.com. Retrieved August 2, 2012.
- "William Peter Blatty: Centipede Press". Centipedepress.com. Retrieved August 3, 2013.
- "William Peter Blatty Biography (1928–)". Filmreference.com. Retrieved August 2, 2012.
- Jan 21, 1974 (January 21, 1974). "Religion: The Exorcist Debate". Time.com. Retrieved August 2, 2012.
- "Overview for William Peter Blatty". Tcm.com. Retrieved August 2, 2012.
- "You Bet Your Life" (1950) – Trivia
- Blatty, William Peter (April 4, 1974). I'll Tell Them I Remember You. Barrie & Jenkins. ISBN 978-0-214-20016-8.
- Joshi, S.T. (2001). The Modern Weird Tale: A Critique of Horror Fiction. McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-0-7864-0986-0.
- Peter Blatty's Back
- TheNinthConfiguration.com – Further 40th Details
- TheNinthConfiguration.com – A website dedicated to William Peter Blatty, The Ninth Configuration & Legion
- The Exorcist Fansite
- More about Blatty
- Blatty's Bibliography
- William Peter Blatty at the Internet Movie Database