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End Credits #2: Cinema's 2012 Lost Treasures Gore Vidal


GORE VIDAL (1925-2012)

Gore Vidal, who appeared in the futuristic Gattaca (1997) passed away July 31, 2012 at age 86. Vidal was, of course, best known as a towering figure amongst the literary world for his many critically acclaimed essays, plays, and novels (the bestselling Burr, and Lincoln among others), and for being a witty, outrageously extreme critic of all things political, making numerous controversial documentary and television appearances some sporting famous feuds with Norman Mailer and William F Buckley. He even ran for political office several times albeit unsuccessfully. Cinematically speaking, he wrote some excellent teleplays for the outstanding series Suspense (1954), Studio One (1954-1955), the noteworthy Visit To A Small Planet (later becoming a hit Broadway play) for The Goodyear Television Playhouse (1955), and A Sense of Justice and The Death Of Billy The Kid both for The Philco Television Playhouse (1955) amongst others.



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Gore's film credits include the engrossing screenplay for I ACCUSE! (1958), based on the book by Nicholas Halasz concerning the "Dreyfus Case" in which a Jewish Captain in the French Army is falsely accused of treason, a film directed by its star Jose' Ferrer. In addition he wrote the play on which director Arthur Penn's The Left Handed Gun (also 1958) was based starring Paul Newman as legendary outlaw Billy the Kid.


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He contributed to the screenplay of Ben-Hur (1959) but how much of a contribution remains contentious as he and three other co-writers went uncredited. He also adapted the screenplay based on Tennessee Williams' play Suddenly Last Summer (also 1959).  




In 1960 he saw his play Visit To A Small Planet adapted for the screen starring Jerry Lewis... a casting choice and the resulting film both of which Vidal was unhappy about.


He co-wrote screenplays for other films such as Is Paris Burning? (1966), and would go on to make some distinguished acting appearances in Bob Roberts (1992) and Shadow Conspiracy (1997), but back in 1964 he enjoyed his biggest cinematic claim to fame when he adapted his stage play The Best Man for the screen portraying rivals Henry Fonda (as the Adlai Stevenson II type William Russell) and Cliff Robertson (as a Richard Nixon like Joe Cantwell), both hoping to secure their same party's nomination and then go on to replace Lee Tracy (playing outgoing President Art Hockstader). Vidal provided the brilliant foundation for its director and cast to deliver a dramatic tour de force in one of the most intelligent, insightful, and engrossing movies about political campaigning you'll ever see. 


Speaking for myself, Gore Vidal will be remembered most for being the eminent spokesperson for the political left, who courageously put himself on the firing line. Intelligent, articulate, possessing a razor-sharp wit, he was candidly honest and will be sorely missed.