Sidney Sheldon

Active - 1941 - 1996  |   Born - Feb 11, 1917 in Chicago, Illinois, United States  |   Died - Jan 30, 2007   |   Genres - Comedy, Fantasy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

American writer/producer/director Sidney Sheldon started his career at the lowest rung, as a radio jokewriter; he then moved to a starvation-wage job at Universal, as a reader of other writers' works. Sheldon's first screenplay credit was for the Republic B-plus mystery Mr. District Attorney and the Carter Case (1941). In 1947, he won an Oscar for his bouncy screenplay for the Cary Grant/Myrna Loy/Shirley Temple comedy The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer, gaining nationwide fame for a chunk of rhyming doggerel about voodoo ("I know a man!/What man?/The man with the power!/What power?"...etc) which was recited in the film by Grant and Temple. Sheldon worked for most of the major comedians of the '50s, and counted Groucho Marx among his closest friends. He made the transition from writer to director with 1953's Dream Wife, but this film, like most of his other directorial efforts, was a disappointment that did little to bolster his reputation. In 1959, Sheldon earned another industry award, sharing a Tony for his libretto contributions to the Broadway musical Redhead. Six years later, Sheldon produced and created the imperishable Barbara Eden sitcom I Dream of Jeannie. At the conclusion of this popular project, Sheldon turned to writing novels. The Naked Face (1970) was not the blockbuster that such later Sheldon efforts as The Other Side of Midnight and The Stranger in the Mirror became, but like his later works it titillated the reader with luxuriously detailed sex scenes and with "a clef" characters based on famous real-life personages (one of Sheldon's later literary characters was an amalgam of Red Skelton, Jerry Lewis and Groucho Marx, deftly encompassing the best and the worst personal aspects of all three men). Many of Sheldon's books have served as the basis for popular films (Bloodline) and TV miniseries (A Rage in Heaven, Windmills of the Gods) -- which usually bestow upon Sheldon the ultimate (and contracturally obligated) accolade: His name within the title, a la Sidney Sheldon's Bloodline. Sidney Sheldon remains a prolific and profitable writer into his eighth decade, as well as one of the most prominent and sought-after figures of Hollywood's social scene.

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  • His parents both dropped out of school during their elementary years.
  • Suffered from bipolar disorder, which was successfully treated as an adult. 
  • Served as a pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II.
  • Was the writer of three hit musicals running simultaneously on Broadway in 1944: the revival of The Merry Widow, Jackpot and Dream With Music.
  • Secured a job as a script reader for Universal Pictures by writing a summary of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men that he sent to all of the major studios.
  • Introduced to his first wife, actress Jorja Curtright, by Zsa Zsa Gabor.
  • His first book, 1970's The Naked Face, was originally rejected by five publishers; it went on to sell several million copies and win a Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award.
  • Having sold more than 300 million copies, nearly every one of his novels has been adapted into either a big-screen feature or a TV miniseries.
  • Received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1988.