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Frank Pierson

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Frank Pierson
Frank Pierson in 2009
Born(1925-05-12)May 12, 1925
DiedJuly 22, 2012(2012-07-22) (aged 87)
Resting placeWestwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery
EducationB.A. from Harvard College
Alma materHarvard College
Occupation(s)Director, screenwriter
Years active1944–2012
Spouse(s)Helene Pierson
(? – 2012; his death)
AwardsAcademy Award

Frank Romer Pierson[1] (May 12, 1925 – July 22, 2012) was an American screenwriter and film director.[2][3]

Life and career[edit]

Pierson was born in Chappaqua, New York, the son of Louise (née Randall), a writer, and Harold C. Pierson.[1] Pierson's family was the subject of his mother's 1943 autobiography Roughly Speaking and a 1945 movie of the same name, starring Rosalind Russell and Jack Carson as his parents.

Pierson served in the Army during World War II, then graduated from Harvard.[4] He worked as a correspondent for Time and Life magazines before selling his first script to Alcoa-Goodyear Theater. He got his break in Hollywood in 1958 as script editor for Have Gun – Will Travel and moved on to write for the television series Naked City, Route 66 and others. He wrote or co-wrote several successful films, including Cat Ballou and Cool Hand Luke, which were both nominated for Academy Awards. He wrote Dog Day Afternoon, which won Pierson the Academy Award. He directed and contributed to the screenplay of the 1976 remake of A Star Is Born; and the in-fighting between himself, Barbra Streisand, Kris Kristofferson and producer (and at the time boyfriend of Streisand) Jon Peters on the film led him to write the article "My Battles with Barbra and Jon" for The Village Voice.[5]

Pierson directed several films produced for television, including Dirty Pictures, Citizen Cohn, Conspiracy, and Somebody Has to Shoot the Picture. His direction on Conspiracy won a Directors' Guild Award for Best Television Movie, and his second Peabody and BAFTA Award.

He was President of the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) from 1981 to 1983 and again from 1993 to 1995 and was President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) from 2001 to 2005. In 2003, Pierson was the recipient of the Austin Film Festival's Distinguished Screenwriter Award. Screenwriter Brian Helgeland presented him with the Award. He was a consultant on Mad Men, co-writing (with Matthew Weiner) the fifth episode of its fifth season, "Signal 30",[6] a member of the teaching staff of Sundance Institute, and artistic director of the American Film Institute.

Pierson died on July 22, 2012, in his home in Los Angeles, California. He was survived by his wife Helene and his two children.





  1. ^ a b "Frank Pierson Biography (1925-)". Filmreference.com. Retrieved October 6, 2010.
  2. ^ Byrge, Duane (July 23, 2012). [Frank Pierson, Former Movie Academy President, Writer and Director, Dies at 87.] The Hollywood Reporter
  3. ^ Yardley, William (July 24, 2012).Frank Pierson, Oscar-Winning Writer, Dies at 87. The New York Times
  4. ^ Frank Pierson obituary. The Guardian. Retrieved March 28, 2020.
  5. ^ Pierson, Frank (November 16, 1976). My Battles with Barbra and Jon. The Village Voice
  6. ^ Rosen, Lisa (June 3, 2009). "'Mad Men' turns period drama into an exclamation point". Los Angeles Times.

External links[edit]

Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by President of Academy of Motion Pictures, Arts and Sciences
Succeeded by