Stirling Silliphant

Active - 1953 - 1996  |   Born - Jan 16, 1918   |   Died - Apr 26, 1996   |   Genres - Drama, Action, Crime, Mystery

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Biography by Sandra Brennan

American screenwriter and producer Stirling Silliphant is best remembered for his Oscar-winning screenplay for In the Heat of the Night (1967), but during his career, he wrote or helped write over 200 scripts for films and even more television scripts. Other notable Silliphant scripts include Village of the Damned (1962), The Poseidan Adventure (1972), and The Towering Inferno (1974). In 1968, his script for Charly, the film adaptation for the play Flowers for Algernon, helped win Cliff Robertson his Best Actor Oscar. The Detroit native graduated from the University of California and in 1938 became a publicist for Disney and then moved to Twentieth Century Fox to become an assistant for president Spyros Skouras. Silliphant was in the military during WWII and afterward worked in a New York division of Fox. He did not return to Hollywood until the early '50s, after his first novel, Maracaibo, had become a best-seller. Silliphant performed his first duties as a producer for Universal's The Joe Louis Story. Frustrated by hold-ups on the script, Silliphant swore he could do better and decided that he too would become a scriptwriter. He started out in television writing scripts for series ranging from Route 66 to Alcoa Theatre to Perry Mason. He made his film-scriptwriting debut with Five Against the House (1955). Silliphant significantly boosted the career of martial arts master Bruce Lee when he created a large part for him in Marlowe (1969). A serious student of Buddhism, Silliphant and his wife, Tianna (aka Thi Thanh Nga), a Vietnamese director/actress, moved to Bangkok, Thailand, to study their religion. There were also rumors that Silliphant was tired of Hollywood and the trend to value money-making potential over artistry. Silliphant died in Bangkok after a long illness at the age of 78.

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