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Author corner: Sidney Sheldon

Author name- Sidney Sheldon

Nationality- American

Death- 30th January 2007

Sidney Sheldon, an American writer, playwright, and novelist, was born in Chicago, Illinois, on 11th February 1917. Ascher “Otto” Schechtel, his father was a jewellery store manager, and his mother was Natalie Marcus. When Sidney was ten, he sold his poem for ten dollars making it his very first sale. He went to the Denver East High School, and for graduate studies, he attended the North-western University. There he made contributions to the drama groups with his short plays.

At the beginning of 1937, Sheldon tried his fate in Hollywood by writing and reviewing various scripts. He finally managed to sell one of his screenplays, ‘South of Panama’, to a studio for 250 dollars in 1941. During World War I, he was recruited as a pilot in the Army Air Corps. After the end of the war, he returned to New York, where his reputation as a creative writer started building. He wrote musicals for the well-known MGM Studios and Paramount Pictures. Once, he had three of his musicals at once on Broadway. They were ‘The Merry Widow’, ‘Jackpot’ and ‘Dream with Music’. This success brought him back to Hollywood. The first film written by Sheldon was ‘The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer’, which got him the Academy Award in 1947.

With the rise of television as a popular medium, Sheldon decided to try out its luck. He wrote a series called ‘The Patty Duke Show’ and wrote every episode of it for the next seven years. He also made, produced, and wrote the show ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ using three pseudonyms ‘Mark Rowane’, ‘Allan Devon’ and ‘Christopher Gollato’. These were also used when writing ‘Nancy’ and ‘Hart to Hart’.

His first novel was ‘The Naked Face’, which was published in 1969, earning him a nomination for ‘The Best First Writer’ category. The second novel, ‘The Other side Of Midnight’, was published in 1973, topping the ‘The New York Times Best Seller’ list. Sheldon was very particular about the writing and validity of his books. For this very reason, before writing his novel ‘Windmills of the Mind’, a story about the CIA, he personally met Richard Helms, a former CIA recruit. He also went to Argentina and Romania and spent some time in ‘Junction City, Kansas’ where one of the book’s lead characters resided.

Novelist, screenwriter, and playwright. Former script reader for Universal and Twentieth Century-Fox Studios; screenwriter and director of films for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Paramount; creator, producer, and writer of television shows, Los Angeles, CA, beginning 1963, including The Patty Duke Show, I Dream of Jeannie, Nancy, and Hart to Hart. The executive producer of films and mini-series based on his novels. Military service: U.S. Army Air Forces, 1941

At age fifty, at the top of his profession as a film and television producer of hits like I Dream of Jeannie, Sidney Sheldon had no hint of another, even more successful, career ahead of him. Writing novels “never occurred to me,” Sheldon told Detroit News reporter Ruth Pollack Coughlin. “I wasn’t a novelist. I was writing for motion pictures and television, and Broadway. For me, writing novels was an unnatural next step.” Why then would the winner of Oscar and Antoinette Perry (Tony) awards turn to fiction? As the author explained to Washington Post contributor Sarah Booth Conroy, “I got an idea that was so introspective I could see no way to do it as a television series, movie, or Broadway play because you had to get inside the character’s mind.

His marriage to Jorja Curtright Sheldon, an actress and interior designer, lasted for thirty years. After she died in 1985, Sheldon married Alexandra Kostoff in 1989. His legacy includes 18 novels sold three hundred million copies, 200 TV scripts and 25 major films, and 6 Broadway plays. Sidney Sheldon died due to Pneumonia in California on 30th January 2007. He was buried in Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.

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