William Peter Blatty

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William Peter Blatty
Bill Blatty 2009.jpg
Blatty in 2009
Born (1928-01-07)January 7, 1928
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died January 12, 2017(2017-01-12) (aged 89)
Bethesda, Maryland, U.S.
Occupation Novelist, screenwriter, film director
Alma mater Georgetown University
George Washington University
Genre Horror, drama, comedy
Spouse Julie Witbrodt (m. 1983)
Children 7

William Peter Blatty (January 7, 1928 – January 12, 2017) was an American writer and filmmaker[1] best known for his 1971[1] novel The Exorcist and for the Academy Award-winning screenplay of its film adaptation. He also wrote and directed the sequel The Exorcist III.[1]

Born and raised in New York City, Blatty received his bachelor's degree in english from the Georgetown University in 1950, and his master's degree in english literature from the George Washington University. Following completion of his master's degree in 1954, he joined the United States Air Force, where he worked in Psychological Warfare Division. After service in the air force, he worked for the United States Information Agency in Beirut.

Some of his other notable works are the novels Elsewhere (2009), Dimiter (2010) and Crazy (2010).

Early life[edit]

Blatty was born in New York City,[2] on January 7, 1928,[3][4] the fifth and youngest child of Lebanese immigrants[3][5] Mary (née Mouakad), a devout Catholic and the niece of a bishop and Peter Blatty, a cloth cutter.[4][6][7] His father left home when William was six years old.[5][6] 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 Manhattan;[3][6] 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."[8] He lived at 28 different addresses during his childhood[6] because of nonpayment of rent.[9] "We never lived at the same address in New York for longer than two or three months at a time," Blatty told The Washington Post in 1972. "Eviction was the order of the day."[3] Blatty's mother died in 1967.[6]

He attended Brooklyn Preparatory, a Jesuit school, on scholarship and graduated as class valedictorian in 1946,[6][10] and later attended Georgetown University on a scholarship,[6] where he earned his bachelor's degree in English in 1950.[3][11] While studying for his master's degree at George Washington University, Blatty took menial jobs.[7] Initially unable to find a job in teaching, he worked as a vacuum cleaner door-to-door salesman, as a beer truck driver,[3] and as a United Airlines ticket agent.[2] Blatty earned his master's in English literature from the George Washington University in 1954.[3][11] He then enlisted in the United States Air Force,[2][3] where he ultimately became head of the Policy Branch of the USAF Psychological Warfare Division.[12]

Mustering out of the Air Force, he joined the United States Information Agency and worked as an editor based in Beirut, Lebanon,[2][6] about which he would write in his humorous autobiography Which Way to Mecca, Jack?.[13]


In the 1950s, Blatty worked as the public relations director at Loyola University of Los Angeles[14] and as the Director of Publicity at the University of Southern California.[11][15] Blatty published his first book, Which Way to Mecca, Jack? in 1960,[6] which dealt humorously with both his early life and his work at the United States Information Agency in Lebanon.[13][16] In 1961, while still working in public relations, Blatty appeared as a contestant on the Groucho Marx quiz show You Bet Your Life, winning $10,000,[2][6] enough money to quit his job and to write full time.[6] Thereafter, he never held a regular job again.[6]

He then published the comic novels John Goldfarb, Please Come Home! (1963),[6] I, Billy Shakespeare (1965)[2] and Twinkle, Twinkle, "Killer" Kane (1966).[2] He achieved critical success with these books – Marvin Levin in the New York Times, for example, wrote: "Nobody can write funnier lines than William Peter Blatty, a gifted virtuoso who writes like [S. J.] Perelman" –, but popular sales were lacking.[2]

It was at this point that Blatty began a collaboration with director Blake Edwards,[6] writing scripts for comedy films such as A Shot in the Dark (1964),[6] What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? (1966),[6] Gunn (1967),[6] and Darling Lili (1970),[6] 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[6] The Man from the Diners' Club (1963) and the Warren Beatty/Leslie Caron film[6] Promise Her Anything (1965). Others were the film adaptation of John Goldfarb, Please Come Home! (1965)[3] and The Great Bank Robbery (1969).[17]

Later Blatty resumed novel-writing.[2] Blatty wrote The Exorcist in 1971,[2] a story about a twelve-year-old girl being possessed by a powerful demon, that topped The New York Times bestseller list for 17 weeks and remained on the list for 57 consecutive weeks.[2] The book sold more than 13 million copies in the United States alone and was translated into over a dozen languages.[3] It was later adapted by himself and director William Friedkin into the film version.[12] Blatty went on to win an Academy Award for his Exorcist screenplay,[6] as well as Golden Globes for Best Picture and Best Writing.[11] It also became the first ever horror film to be nominated for the best picture Oscar.[6]

In 1978, Blatty adapted his novel Twinkle, Twinkle, "Killer" Kane into the retitled The Ninth Configuration,[2] and in 1980 he wrote, directed and produced a film version, which focused on the question of the existence of God.[2] The film was a commercial flop despite critical acclaim. The movie critic Jerry Stein reviewed it as a "masterpiece" in The Cincinnati Post and Peter Travers described it as "the finest large-scale American surrealist film ever made" in People magazine.[2] In 1981 it was nominated for three Golden Globes, and won the Best Writing Award[11] against competition that included The Elephant Man (1980), Ordinary People (1980) and Raging Bull (1980).[2]

In 1983, Blatty wrote Legion, a sequel to The Exorcist which later became the basis of the film The Exorcist III.[2] At first he was unable to set up the production because he wanted to direct the film. Blatty's agent, Steve Jaffe, helped package the project with producer Carter DeHaven at Morgan Creek Productions.[18] Blatty directed the film. He 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.[2] Blatty had no involvement in this first sequel and his own follow-up ignored it entirely.[2]

Blatty's son Peter Vincent Blatty died from a rare heart disorder in 2006 at the age of 19.[6][19] His death was the subject of Blatty’s non-fiction book that is "part comic memoir, part argument for life after death", titled, Finding Peter: A True Story of the Hand of Providence and Evidence of Life After Death (2015).[19]

In 2011, The Exorcist was re-released as a 40th Anniversary Edition[6] 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."[20] Tor/Forge have also re-published The Ninth Configuration[21] and Legion,[22] respectively, with new, updated cover artwork.

The Exorcist was eventually adapted into a TV mini-series (2016), starring Richard Chamberlain and Brooke Shields.[7] It debuted on Fox in 2016.[3] The series first premiered in Los Angeles in 2012.[7] Internationally, the series premiered in Brazil on FX on September 23, 2016, the same day as in the U.S.[23] It premiered in Australia on showcase on December 4, 2016.[24]

Personal life and death[edit]

Blatty married four times and had seven children.[9] With his first wife, Mary Margaret Rigard, whom he married on February 18, 1950, he had three children: Christine Ann, Michael Peter and Mary Joanne.[25] His first marriage ended in an annulment.[26] His second wife was Elizabeth Gilman, whom he married in 1950.[26] His third wife was tennis professional Linda Tuero (married in July 1975) with whom he had two children.[27][28] Following the dissolution of his first three marriages,[3] Blatty married Julie Alicia Witbrodt, his fourth wife, in 1983,[4][6] by whom he had two children.[27] The couple remained together until Blatty's death in 2017.[9] After residing many years in Hollywood and Aspen, Blatty settled in Bethesda, Maryland in 2000.[3]

Blatty died of multiple myeloma on January 12, 2017, at a hospital in Bethesda, five days after his 89th birthday.[2][6] Survivors include his wife, Julie Witbrodt Blatty; three daughters, two sons, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.[7]

Blatty was a Roman Catholic.[29]

Critical studies[edit]

Studies of Blatty's work include G. S. J. Barclay's Anatomy of Horror: The Masters of Occult Fiction.[30] Critical essay on Blatty's work include Douglas E. Winter's essay in A Dark Night's Dreaming: Contemporary American Horror Fiction[31] and S. T. Joshi's essay "William Peter Blatty: The Catholic Weird Tale" in The Modern Weird Tale: A Critique of Horror Fiction (2001).[32] Essays studying all Blatty's novels can be found in Benjamin Szumskyj's American Exorcist: Critical Essays on William Peter Blatty (McFarland, 2008).


Awards include:

  • The Commonwealth Club Silver Medal for Literature (The Exorcist)[33]
  • The Gabriel Award and American Film Festival Blue Ribbon for Insight TV series episode "Watts Made Out of Thread?"[11]
  • Saturn Awards for The Exorcist,[34] The Ninth Configuration[35] and The Exorcist III
  • The People's Choice Award for the Oscars – Best Picture Award for The Exorcist[36]
  • The Horror Writers Association Lifetime Achievement Award[37]
  • Academy Award, Best Adapted Screenplay (The Exorcist)[6][11]
  • Golden Globe, Best Screenplay (The Ninth Configuration)[10]
  • Golden Globe, Best Picture (The Exorcist)[11]
  • Golden Globe, Best Screenplay (The Exorcist)[38]



Novelizations of Blatty's screenplays by others, paperback editions only[edit]



  • Blatty, William Peter (1974). William Peter Blatty on 'The Exorcist': From Novel to Screen. Bantam Books. ISBN 0553086871. 
  • Blatty, William Peter (2001). If There Were Demons Then Perhaps There Were Angels: William Peter Blatty's Own Story of the Exorcist. Screenpress Books. ISBN 1901680347. 
  • Blatty, William Peter (2015). Finding Peter: A True Story of The Hand of Providence and Evidence of Life After Death. Regnery Publishing. ISBN 162157332X. [6]





See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Zak, Dan (October 30, 2013). "William Peter Blatty, writer of 'The Exorcist,' slips back into the light for its 40th anniversary". The Washington Post. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac Cain, Sian (January 13, 2017). "Exorcist author William Peter Blatty dies aged 89". The Guardian. Retrieved January 13, 2017. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "William Peter Blatty, author of 'The Exorcist', dies at 89". The Washington Post. January 13, 2017. Retrieved January 13, 2017. 
  4. ^ a b c d e The International Who's Who 2004. Psychology Press. 2003. p. 175. ISBN 9781857432176. 
  5. ^ a b Nelson, Emmanuel Sampath, ed. (2000). Asian American Novelists: A Bio-bibliographical Critical Sourcebook (illustrated ed.). Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 18. ISBN 9780313309113. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab Vitello, Paul (January 13, 2017). "William Peter Blatty, Author of 'The Exorcist,' Dies at 89". The New York Times. 
  7. ^ a b c d e "William Peter Blatty obituary". The Guardian. 16 January 2017. Retrieved 3 February 2017. 
  8. ^ "Words of Wisdom: William Peter Blatty". American Task Force for Lebanon. 1 April 2015. Retrieved 16 January 2017. 
  9. ^ a b c "Exorcist author William Peter Blatty dead at 89: Stephen King and Edgar Wright lead tributes". The Telegraph. 13 January 2017. Retrieved 19 January 2017. 
  10. ^ a b "'Exorcist' author William Peter Blatty dies at 89". Los Angeles Times. 13 January 2017. Retrieved 13 January 2017. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h "William Peter Blatty: Author, Screenwriter, Director". The Washington Post. 
  12. ^ a b "'The Exorcist' Controversy: Film Used Tactics Previously Tested by US Government to Scare Audiences". Latin Post. May 30, 2015. Retrieved January 14, 2017. 
  13. ^ a b Joshi, S.T. (2001). The Modern Weird Tale (illustrated ed.). McFarland. p. 50. ISBN 9780786409860. 
  14. ^ "Religion: The Exorcist Debate". Time.com. January 21, 1974. Retrieved August 2, 2012. 
  15. ^ "Overview for William Peter Blatty". Tcm.com. Retrieved August 2, 2012. 
  16. ^ Hebel, Udo J. (2009). Transnational American Memories (illustrated ed.). Walter de Gruyter. p. 129. ISBN 9783110224207. 
  17. ^ "William Peter Blatty, 'The Exorcist' Author, Dead at 89". Rolling Stone. 13 January 2017. Retrieved 13 January 2017. 
  18. ^ The Exorcist III (1990) at the Internet Movie Database
  19. ^ a b O'Sullivan, Michael (14 April 2015). "William Peter Blatty talks literature, life after death and lousy movies". The Washington Post. Retrieved 7 February 2017. 
  20. ^ Further 40th Details, theninthconfiguration.com; accessed April 19, 2015.
  21. ^ Macmillan. "The Ninth Configuration – William Peter Blatty – Macmillan". 
  22. ^ Macmillan. "Legion – William Peter Blatty – Macmillan". 
  23. ^ Marafon, Renato (6 September 2016). "The Exorcist premiere in Brazil at the same day that premiered in USA.". CinePop. Retrieved 6 September 2016. 
  24. ^ Purcell, Charles (24 November 2016). "New This Week (Nov 28): The Exorcist, DC Crossover, Shark Week, FFA Final, Wallabies and live sport". The Green Room. Archived from the original on 25 November 2016. Retrieved 25 November 2016. 
  25. ^ Reginald, R.; Menville, Douglas; Burgess, Mary A. (2010). Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature, Volume 2 (illustrated ed.). Wildside Press LLC. p. 820. ISBN 9780941028783. 
  26. ^ a b Evory, Ann (1983). Contemporary Authors New Revision Series: A Bio-Bibliographical Guide to Current Writers in Fiction, General Non-Fiction, Poetry, Journalism, Drama, Motion Pictures, Television, & Other Fields. Gale. p. 58. ISBN 9780810319387. 
  27. ^ a b Hall, Loretta (1999). Arab American biography (illustrated ed.). U.X.L. p. 80. ISBN 9780787629540. 
  28. ^ "An Angel Made Blatty Marry". The Journal. NY State Historic Newspapers. AP. July 22, 1975. p. 16. 
  29. ^ "The Father King Society – to Make Georgetown Honest, Catholic and Better". gupetition.org. Retrieved January 13, 2017. 
  30. ^ Anatomy of Horror: The Masters of Occult Fiction New York: St. Martins, 1978. .
  31. ^ "Casting Out Demons: The Horror Fiction of William Peter Blatty" in Tony Magistrale and Michael A. Morrison, eds. A Dark Night's Dreaming: Contemporary American Horror Fiction. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1996. ISBN 1570030707. (pp. 84–96) .
  32. ^ Joshi, S.T. (2001). The Modern Weird Tale: A Critique of Horror Fiction. McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-0-7864-0986-0. 
  33. ^ Kay, Ernest (1976). The International authors and writers who's who. p. 57. ISBN 9780900332340. 
  34. ^ "1973 Film Awards for Best Horror Film Release". Saturn Awards. 
  35. ^ "William Peter Blatty, l'auteur de "L'exorciste", est décédé". www.lci.fr. 
  36. ^ Riggs, Thomas, ed. (2000). Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. Gale / Cengage Learning. p. 47. ISBN 9780787646363. 
  37. ^ "1997 Bram Stoker Award Nominees & Winners". Horror Writers Association. 
  38. ^ "The Exorcist". Golden Globe Awards. 
  39. ^ Blatty, William P. (November 1, 1980). John Goldfarb, Please Come Home. Bantam Books. ASIN 0553142518 – via Amazon. 
  40. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Exorcist writer William Peter Blatty dies aged 89". January 13, 2017 – via www.bbc.com. 
  41. ^ Blatty, William Peter (February 1, 2011). The Redemption. Piatkus Books. ASIN 074995373X – via Amazon. 
  42. ^ a b c d e "Filmography for William Peter Blatty". Turner Classic Movies. 

External links[edit]