Paddy Chayefsky

Active - 1945 - 1994  |   Born - Jan 29, 1923   |   Died - Aug 1, 1981   |   Genres - Drama, Romance

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Playwright/scenarist Paddy Chayefsky originally harbored dreams of becoming a comedian, but turned to writing while convalescing from a war wound. His entry into movies was by way of a bit part in the New York-based A Double Life (1947). He began securing writing work in the world of live television in the early 1950s, contributing to virtually every major Golden Age anthology. Though he was pigeonholed early on as a specialist in "kitchen sink" drama, Chayefsky preferred to think of himself as a satirist: even his best-known TV drama, Marty, was intended as a parody of the dreary lives and pointless small talk of Bronx tenement dwellers. Marty did so well as a 1953 TV drama that it was expanded by Chayefsky into a 1955 film, which won that year's Best Picture Oscar. The author continued in a relatively realistic vein until his 1959 play Gideon, an irreverent Biblical retelling wherein the title character spends most of his time kvetching with the Angel of the Lord. Chayefsky made the transition to satire pure and simple with his dark 1971 film farce The Hospital, which won him another Oscar. Five years later, he skewered the world of TV journalism with his screenplay for Network (76), introducing the now-legendary mantra "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it any more." Chayefsky's last screenplay was the 1980 adaptation of his own novel Altered States. So unhappy was he with the cavalier treatment given his dialogue in the finished film that he had his name removed from the screen credits. Chayefsky died shortly afterward. At the 1982 Oscar ceremony, a loving tribute was offered to the prolific playwright by his long-ago Marty star (1953 teleplay version), Rod Steiger.

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