Horton Foote

Active - 1955 - 2015  |   Born - Mar 14, 1916   |   Died - Mar 4, 2009   |   Genres - Drama

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Biography by Jason Buchanan

Often citied as one of America's most beloved dramatists, Horton Foote has shown an unmatched ability to capture the very essence of small-town life, a talent that has become the life-blood of his career since its earliest days. From his Oscar-winning and unforgettably moving adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) to such introspective original works as Tender Mercies (1983) and The Trip to Bountiful (1985), Foote had a way of crafting characters who speak directly to the soul with honesty and sincerity. Born in Wharton, TX, Foote left home at the age of 16 to study acting. Realizing that he would likely have to relocate to the West Coast, he gained experience at the Pasadena Playhouse in California and later in New York, though the good roles still eluded him. Foote's solution to this dilemma was to write them for himself, and the actor soon discovered his true talent as a writer. His work for the stage quickly led to work in television drama, and, before he knew it, he was writing for such respected programs as Playhouse 90 and Studio One during television's Golden Age. His plays The Chase and The Trip to Bountiful proved that his unique style of small-town drama was equally effective on the stage or screen. Foote's career eventually led him to Hollywood, where his screenplays for Storm Fear (1955) and To Kill a Mockingbird began to attract serious attention. In 1966, Foote's play The Chase was adapted into a feature film starring Marlon Brando, Jane Fonda, Robert Redford, and Angie Dickinson.

Foote worked sporadically through the 1960s and '70s, and, in 1983, he re-teamed with To Kill a Mockingbird actor Robert Duvall for the affecting drama Tender Mercies. Not only was the film a critical success, but it also earned Academy Awards for both its star and screenwriter. The Trip to Bountiful was adapted for the screen two years later, and found actress Geraldine Page cast in the role of an aging mother desperate to revisit the town where she grew up (which was based on Foote's hometown). Many of the writer's plays were adapted to the screen throughout the 1980s, and, in 1992, Foote adapted John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men for stars Gary Sinise and John Malkovich. As the '90s progressed, Foote worked frequently in television on such efforts as Lily Dale (1996), Old Man (1997), and Alone (also 1997).

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