- Stirling Silliphant
Stirling Dale Silliphant (
16 January 1918– 26 April 1996) was a prolific American screenwriterand producer. He was born in Detroit, Michigan, and educated at the University of Southern California. He is probably best known for his Academy-award winning screenplay for "In the Heat of the Night". Other acclaimed features as screenwriter include Irwin Allenproductions " The Towering Inferno" and "The Poseidon Adventure".
Silliphant is also remembered for his now-infamous bet with
Hal Warrenon whether Warren could make a successful horror movieon a limited budget, which was the inspiration for "". He was a close friend of Bruce Lee— under whom he studied martial arts — who was featured in the Silliphant-penned 'Marlowe' and four episodes of the series "Longstreet". Silliphant was involved in the early part of Bruce Lee's movie and TV in America, and suggested him for action choreography work on productions like "Walk in the Spring Rain", a Silliphant-scripted film.
They had also been writing on a philosophical martial arts script called "The Silent Flute" (later known as "Circle of Iron"), with
James Coburn. It was to star Lee and Coburn, and the pre-production even went to the extent of all three going to India on a location hunt.
Silliphant was a film and television writer with over 700 hours of prime-time television drama to his credit, many of which earned
Emmys for their producers, directors, and cast members. However, he never received an Emmy personally as writer. "Time" in 1967 referred to him in a feature article with the statement: "The moving finger...having written, moved on!"
A famous Hollywood story underscores his ability to work fast. His famous production manager,
Sam Manners, called him from the road unit of "Route 66" from El Paso, Texas. He told Stirling they could save perhaps a hundred thousand dollars if Stirling could write an extra story for the show that could be shot in El Paso while all the production trucks and crew were there. Silliphant obliged and had the script ready to shoot in a couple of days. The guest star was a famous character actor, Albert Dekker, who was flown to do the part over the weekend.
His work papers may be examined by scholars at
UCLA, Westwood campus.
In the earlier part of his career he was publicity director for
Walt Disney, and was lead writer on the stories incorporated into " The Mickey Mouse Club". He produced several independent films such as " 5 Against the House" with Kim Novak, " Huk!" and "Maracaibo". Later he broke into television, writing for the live " Playhouse 90". "Perry Mason" and " Alfred Hitchcock Presents" soon followed.
Silliphant was especially famous for his involvement in two seminal TV series of the sixties, "Route 66" and "Naked City". In fact, Silliphant was quoted as saying that a number of his "Naked City" scripts were far superior to the script that won him the Oscar for "In the Heat of the Night". One of his later series creations was "Longstreet", which featured a blind detective played by
He wrote three television miniseries: "Pearl" (about the attack on
Pearl Harbor), "Space" (based on the James Michenernovel about America's early space program), and "Mussolini: The Untold Story". He also wrote the script for a never-produced TV miniseries of Atlas Shrugged, the novel by Ayn Rand.
In total he wrote 47 feature films, including "Village of the Damned", the
Charles Bronsonspy thriller " Telefon", " The Gauntlet", " The Liberation of L.B. Jones", " The Killer Elite", and the Dirty Harryfilm "The Enforcer".
In addition to the Academy Award, "In the Heat of the Night" also earned Silliphant an
Edgar Awardfrom the Mystery Writers of America, for Best Motion Picture Screenplay.
Silliphant also helped to pull film concepts together. He penned the screenplay for "
Shaft in Africa", the third film in the "Shaft" series. With Chatrichalerm Yukol, he co-wrote the screenplay to the 1994 Thai action film, "Salween".
He died in
Bangkok, Thailandin 1996.
* [http://www.originalmmc.com/silliphant.html Stirling Silliphant] profile
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