August 27, 1929|
New York City, New York, U.S.
November 12, 2007 (aged 78)|
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
Ira Marvin Levin (August 27, 1929 – November 12, 2007) was an American novelist, playwright, and songwriter. His most noted works include the novels A Kiss Before Dying (1953), Rosemary's Baby (1967), The Stepford Wives (1972), and The Boys from Brazil (1976), as well as the play Deathtrap (1978). Many of his novels and plays have been adapted to film.
Ira Levin was born on August 27, 1929, in the New York City, New York borough of Manhattan. He grew up in both Manhattan and the Bronx. His father, Charles, was a toy importer. Levin was educated at the Horace Mann School in New York. He attended Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa from 1946 to 1948 and then New York University, where he majored in philosophy and English. He graduated in 1950. He served in the Army Signal Corps from 1953 to 1955.
Levin's first produced play was No Time for Sergeants (adapted from the Mac Hyman novel), a comedy about a hillbilly drafted into the United States Air Force that launched the career of Andy Griffith. The play was turned into a movie in 1958, and co-starred Nick Adams; it was later developed into a 1964 television comedy series starring Sammy Jackson. No Time for Sergeants is generally considered the precursor to Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C..
Levin's best-known play is Deathtrap, which holds the record as the longest running comedy thriller on Broadway and brought Levin his second Edgar Award. In 1982, it was made into a film starring Christopher Reeve and Michael Caine.
Levin's first novel, A Kiss Before Dying, was well received, earning him the 1954 Edgar Award for Best First Novel. A Kiss Before Dying was turned into a movie twice, first in 1956 and again in 1991.
Levin's best-known novel is Rosemary's Baby, a horror story of modern-day Satanism and other occultisms, set in Manhattan's Upper West Side. In 1968, it was made into a film starring Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes. Ruth Gordon won an Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance. Roman Polanski, who wrote and directed the film, was nominated for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium. Levin said in 2002, "I feel guilty that ‘Rosemary's Baby' led to ‘The Exorcist,' ‘The Omen.' A whole generation has been exposed, has more belief in Satan. I don't believe in Satan. And I feel that the strong fundamentalism we have would not be as strong if there hadn't been so many of these books [...] Of course, I didn't send back any of the royalty checks."
In the 1990s, Levin wrote two more bestselling novels: Sliver (1991) which became a film in 1993 by Phillip Noyce, with Sharon Stone, William Baldwin and Tom Berenger; and Son of Rosemary (1997), the sequel to Rosemary's Baby.
Stephen King has described Ira Levin as "the Swiss watchmaker of suspense novels, he makes what the rest of us do look like cheap watchmakers in drugstores." Chuck Palahniuk, in Stranger than Fiction: True Stories, calls Levin's writing "a smart, updated version of the kind of folksy legends that cultures have always used."
Levin was married and divorced twice, first to Gabrielle Aronsohn (1935-2014), then to Phyllis Sugarman (died 2006), and had 3 sons, Adam, Jared, and Nicholas (from the first marriage), as well as 4 grandchildren.
- A Kiss Before Dying (1953)
- Rosemary's Baby (1967)
- This Perfect Day (1970) – winner, 1992 Prometheus Hall of Fame Award
- The Stepford Wives (1972)
- The Boys from Brazil (1976)
- Sliver (1991)
- Son of Rosemary (1997)
- No Time for Sergeants (1956)
- Interlock (1958)
- Critic's Choice (1960)
- General Seeger (1962)
- Dr. Cook's Garden (1968)
- Veronica's Room (1974)
- Deathtrap (1978) – Tony nomination for Best Play
- Break a Leg: A Comedy in Two Acts (1981)
- Cantorial (1982)
- A Kiss Before Dying (1956)
- No Time for Sergeants (1958)
- Critic's Choice (1963)
- Rosemary's Baby (1968)
- The Stepford Wives (1975)
- The Boys from Brazil (1978)
- Deathtrap (1982)
- A Kiss Before Dying (1991)
- Sliver (1993)
- Footsteps (2003)
- The Stepford Wives (2004)
- Fox, Margalit (November 14, 2007). "Ira Levin, of Rosemary's Baby, Dies at 78". The New York Times. Retrieved November 14, 2007.
- Hawtree, Christopher (15 November 2007). "Ira Levin". The Guardian. United Kingdom. Retrieved April 9, 2016.
- Hugh Ruppersburg, The New Georgia Encyclopedia Companion to Georgia Literature, page 220 (University of Georgia Press, 2007). ISBN 978-0-8203-2876-8
- Canby, Vincent (February 13, 1975). "The Stepford Wives (1975) Screen: 'Stepford Wives' Assays Suburbia's Detergent Set". The New York Times.
- Scott, A. O. (June 11, 2004). "The Stepford Wives (2004) FILM REVIEW; Married To a Machine". The New York Times.
- Thurber, Jon (November 14, 2007). "Ira Levin, 78; his novels include 'Rosemary's Baby,' 'Stepford Wives'". Los Angeles Times.
- John Grant, "Levin, Ira (Marvin)", in David Pringle, ed., St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost and Gothic Writers. London: St. James Press, 1998, ISBN 1558622063
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