Lorenzo Semple Jr.

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Lorenzo Semple Jr.
Lorenzo Semple Jr.jpg
Born Lorenzo Elliott Semple III
(1923-03-27)March 27, 1923
New Rochelle, New York, U.S.
Died March 28, 2014(2014-03-28) (aged 91)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Alma mater Brooks School, Yale University
Occupation Writer
Spouse(s) Joyce Miller (m. 1963–2014, his death)
Children Two daughters, one son, one stepson

Lorenzo Elliott Semple Jr. (born Lorenzo Elliott Semple III; March 27, 1923 – March 28, 2014) was 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).[1][2]

Biography[edit]

Early work[edit]

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 a play produced on Broadway, Tonight in Samarkand (1955), a melodrama adapted from the French.

He wrote an episode for The Alcoa Hour called "Archangel Harrison" (1955).

He wrote another play, Golden Fleecing, which was filmed for Matinee Theatre in 1958 and premiered on Broadway in 1959.[3]

Semple wrote "China Boy" for the TV series Buckskin (1958), "Four Against Three Millions" and "Money Go Round" for Target (1958), and "Epitaph for a Golden Girl" for Pursuit (1958). "Golden Fleecing" was bought by MGM and produced under the title The Honeymoon Machine (1961), starring Steve McQueen, following which Semple relocated to Hollywood and established himself as a writer for several television shows, including Kraft Suspense Theatre ("Knight's Gambit" 1964), Breaking Point ("Never Trouble Trouble Till Trouble Troubles You" 1964), The Rogues ("Death of a Fleming " 1964), Theatre of Stars ("The Fliers" 1965), Burke's Law (several episodes)'.

Batman[edit]

From an interview with he and Jon Dambacher, "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.

At the same time he provided the screenplay for the 1966 Batman feature film version.

He also wrote one double episode of the television series The Green Hornet called "Beautiful Dreamer," which was broadcast in October 1966.

He co-wrote a TV movie Thompson's Ghost (1966) and did episodes of The Rat Patrol (1966) and wrote "You're Only Young Twice" for Vacation Playhouse (1967).

Film Career[edit]

From the late 1960s onwards, Semple focused on films. His success with the Batman film saw he and director Leslie Martinson re-teamed on a spy spoof for Raquel Welch, Fathom (1967).

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. From interview with Jon Dambacher, "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..."

He rewrote Larry Cohen's script, Daddy's Gone A-Hunting (1969), and wrote the little seen The Sporting Club (1971). The Marriage of a Young Stockbroker (1971) was an attempt to match the success of The Graduate.

Semple had a big hit with Papillon (1973), on which he was one of several writers. He was credited on a series of thrillers: The Super Cops (1974), The Parallax View (1974), The Drowning Pool (1975) and Three Days of the Condor (1975).

Dino De Laurentiis[edit]

Condor had been produced by Dino De Laurentiis, who hired Semple repeatedly over the next few years. He wrote the 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 strip derivative, done in a deliberately over-the-top style reminiscent of the "Batman" sensibility. As with his Batman, serious comic-strip 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 back to the role for the last time, Semple wrote a final comic book adaptation, Sheena (1984), based on the comic book Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.

He wrote a TV movie. Rearview Mirror (1984) and an Imperial war film that was never completed, The Bengal Lancers! (1984).

He was credited on Never Too Young to Die (1986) and the TV movie Rapture (1993).

Later Career[edit]

Subsequently, Semple and retired agent and producer Marcia Nasatir reviewed movies on YouTube as the Reel Geezers.

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.

In January 2013, author Jon Dambacher dedicated his short novel "A Strange, Sickly Beauty" to him.

Death[edit]

Semple died of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles, California, just one day after his ninety-first birthday.[4]

He was the nephew of playwright Philip Barry.

Screenplays[edit]

Television[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fitchett, Joseph (1996-03-26). "Q & A / Lorenzo Semple Jr.: The Oscars: A Look Behind the Scenes". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ "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"
  3. ^ Lorenzo Semple Jr. at Internet Broadway Database
  4. ^ Weber, Bruce (1 April 2014). "Lorenzo Semple Jr., Creator of TV's 'Batman,' Dies at 91". The New York Times. p. B19. 

External links[edit]