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End Credits #16: Cinema's 2014 Lost Treasures Lorenzo Semple Jr.

 

 

 

Lorenzo Semple Jr. (March 27, 1923 - March 28, 2014) a gifted screenwriter has died at age 91.

 

Guest contributor Bob DiMucci provided this article of his accomplishments:

 

The Films of Lorenzo Semple Jr.

 

Born in 1923, Lorenzo Semple, Jr. was 18 when the U.S. entered World War II. During the war, he earned a Croix de Guerre after surviving a battle in the Libyan desert driving an ambulance for the Free French forces. He returned to the U.S., was drafted into the American Army, and ultimately earned a Bronze Star.

Semple's writing career started in 1951, as a short story contributor to magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post and Collier's Weekly. In 1955, he had his first script produced on television, on The Alcoa Hour. Semple also tried writing for the theatre and had two plays produced on Broadway, "Tonight in Samarkand" (1955), a melodrama adapted from the French, and "The Golden Fleecing," a comedy that opened in New York on 15 October 1959. The latter was bought by MGM and produced under the title THE HONEYMOON MACHINE, starring Steve McQueen.

Semple relocated to Hollywood and established himself as a writer for several television shows, including The Rogues and Burke's Law.

 

 

"I wrote a pilot called, Number One Son about Charlie Chan’s son," said Lorenzo. "A story set in San Francisco. I wrote the script which was okay, everybody liked it, which is about all you can expect, and we were thinking about casting and everything, then ABC called William Dozier saying, 'This is very embarrassing but word just came down we’re not to do any program with an ethnic lead.' They didn’t want a Chinese person in it. So they said, 'We’re very embarrassed but we owe you one.'"

While living in Spain in 1965, Semple was approached by producer William Dozier to develop a television series for ABC based on the comic book "Batman." Semple wrote a pilot which was promptly picked up, and the series was put on the air, premiering on 12 January 1966. Semple wrote the first four episodes, and also served as Executive Story Editor, in which capacity he put his writing imprint on all of the first season's scripts. Semple also provided the screenplay for the 1966 BATMAN feature film version, which opened during the summer following the first season.



In 1967, Semple wrote the screenplay for the Raquel Welch actioner FATHOM.



In 1968, Semple scripted the Anthony Perkins-Tuesday Weld thriller PRETTY POISON. The screenplay was based on a novel by Stephen Geller.

SEMPLE's script for PRETTY POISON won the New York Film Critics Circle Award as best screenplay of its year. "20th Century Fox, hated the movie," said SEMPLE. "They really hated it. They released it at only one theater in New York on the upper west side. Just one theater without any press screening. It happened that Pauline Kael was independently a friend of mine. She called up Joe Morgenstern who was a critic at the Wall Street Journal. She said, 'Joe, there’s a movie that’s so terrible that Fox won’t let us see it and put it out at one theater. Let’s go see what kind of movie that was. Maybe we can really beat Fox over the head' and they loved the movie. So, naturally, they wildly over-praised it, in my opinion. They started a movement for it"

PRETTY POISON was remade for television in 1996, but Semple did not write the script for that adaptation.

 

 

In 1969, Semple and Larry Cohen co-wrote the screenplay for DADDY'S GONE A-HUNTING, a violent melodrama centering around abortion.

 

 

In 1971, Semple wrote the screenplay for THE SPORTING CLUB, which was based on the 1969 novel by Thomas McGuane. Producer Lee M. Rich read the novel in galley form and purchased it in February 1969, one month prior to its publication. Rich had very recently formed Lorimar Productions and was assisted in the purchase of the novel's rights by 23-year-old producer Joshua Darr. Lorimar then contributed to the advertising of the book when it was released.

Director Larry Peerce turned down LOVE STORY to work on THE SPORTING CLUB. The film received universally negative reviews. The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner reviewer called it "an impossibly bad movie," while Hollywood Reporter stated that "it's not just a bad movie... it's an aggressively dislikable one," and the Village Voice called it the low point of "the 'New Hollywood' mentality." The Los Angeles Times review reported that Semple regarded the final film as "disastrous." The film was withdrawn from distribution for re-editing shortly after its release, and it was re-released in 1972.

 

 

 

Later in 1971, THE MARRIAGE OF A YOUNG STOCKBROKER opened, with a Semple script that was based on the 1970 novel by Charles Webb.

 

 

In 1973, Semple collaborated with Dalton Trumbo to write the screenplay for PAPILLON, which was based upon the 1969 novel by Henri Charrière, who was 25 when he was sent to Devil's Island.

A sequel to "Papillon,", "Banco", was published in 1973, the same year that Charrière died. The sequel has never been filmed.

 

 

In 1974, Semple wrote the script for the tongue-in-cheek police actioner THE SUPER COPS. The film was based upon a book by L.H. Whittemore, which recounted the exploits of two real-life policemen, David Greenberg and Robert Hantz.

Because the New York papers actually did report the story of the policemen as "The Adventures of Batman and Robin," the film's advertising campaign hearkened back to Semple's own involvement with "Batman."

 

 

Later in 1974, Semple and David Giler wrote the screenplay for Alan J. Pakula's convoluted paranoid thriller THE PARALLAX VIEW. The film was adapted from a 1970 novel by Loren Singer, about a reporter's dangerous investigation into an obscure organization, the Parallax Corporation, whose primary enterprise is political assassination. Reportedly, Robert Towne (CHINATOWN) also added to the script.

 

 

In 1975, Semple worked with Tracy Keenan Wynn and Walter Hill to pen the screenplay for Paul Newman's THE DROWNING POOL. The film was made and released about twenty-five years after its source novel of the same name by Ross Macdonald had been first published in 1950. Newman's character of "Lew Harper" had first appeared on screen in the 1966 film HARPER.

 

 

Also in 1975, Semple and David Rayfiel wrote the script for Sydney Pollack's 3 DAYS OF THE CONDOR. The screenplay was based upon the 1974 novel "Six Days of the Condor" by James Grady. The script won the Edgar Award for Best Motion Picture Screenplay from the Mystery Writers of America, at the Edgar Allan Poe Awards in 1976.

The time period of the book was compressed for the events in this picture, hence the "time-compression title change" as Variety put it. Grady followed up the book with a sequel in 1978 called "Shadow of the Condor" but this property has never been filmed.

 

 

Semple updated the original 1933 screenplay by James Creelman and Ruth Rose for the 1976 remake of KING KONG. Producer Dino De Laurentiis hired Semple to begin work on the script in 1974, and the film was the first of three that Semple did for De Laurentiis.

Semple's initial idea was to have the romantic lead named Joe Perko, a comical Italian oil-drilling foreman; Dwan was to be a "classy semi-intellectual" camera operator of a movie unit along on the expedition to film commercials for Petrox. Semple changed his mind, however, deciding that there was something "predictable" and "TV movie-ish" about a female camera operator. Therefore, Joe Perko was bumped down the line and Jack Prescott was created, as the liberal, young Princeton anthropologist. The female camera operator became the would-be actress set adrift at sea. Semple's reasoning for this was "having established 'reality' of a sort with the oil-exploration vessel setting sail, we needed a bridge to the fantasy which will follow, and what more agreeable fantasy than finding the most gorgeous girl in the world floating unconscious in the South Pacific?"

 

 

Semple's second film for Dino De Laurentiis was 1979's HURRICANE. The screenplay was based upon the 1936 novel by James Norman Hall and Charles Nordhoff ("Mutiny On the Bounty"). Semple was also an Executive Producer on the film.

The film had a troubled production. Roman Polanski was set to direct the film until he was charged with statutory rape. After he fled the country, Jan Troell replaced him. Semple felt that Troell, the Swedish director of THE EMIGRANTS (1971) and THE NEW LAND (1972), was wrong for the film.

 

 

Semple's third film for De Laurentiis was 1980's FLASH GORDON. The film was a comic book derivative, done in a deliberately over-the-top style reminiscent of the "Batman" sensibility. As with his Batman, serious comic-book devotees assailed Semple for the allegedly disrespectful approach he took to the printed originals.

 

 

In 1983, Semple took on James Bond, when he wrote the screenplay for NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN, Sean Connery's swan song in the role. Kevin McClory, Ian Fleming and Jack Whittingham had collaborated on an original story and screenplay for what would have been the very first 007 film, entitled "James Bond, Secret Agent". For whatever reasons, the movie was never made. Fleming then turned the screenplay into his novel "Thunderball". However, his right to do so was not clear.

When Harry Saltzman bought the film rights to the Bond novels from Fleming and went into partnership with Albert R. Broccoli, McClory initiated legal action. The case was settled out of court. Although the film THUNDERBALL was a fairly faithful adaptation of the published novel, McClory's suit resulted in only the earlier screenplay being credited as source material. McClory's producer credit on THUNDERBALL was possibly another term of the settlement. McClory also won the right to make his own Bond movie. But the settlement stipulated that it had to effectively be a remake of Thunderball, which was probably the reason why McClory waited 18 years after THUNDERBALL to make his film. Reportedly, Francis Ford Coppola made script contributions to the film.

 

 

Semple's last feature film screenplay was for 1984's SHEENA, yet another comic book adaptation. Producer Paul Aratow landed a development deal for Sheena, Queen of the Jungle with Universal Pictures as early as 1975 as a proposed starring vehicle for Raquel Welch. However, numerous script rewrites led to the project being put into turnaround. The project was picked up by United Artists, then after a failed script was put in turnaround to Filmways (later Orion Pictures) where another failed script led to another turnaround deal at Avco-Embassy, who courteously released the project before their contract had expired to Columbia pictures. The first screenwriter at Columbia (in 1980) was Leslie Stevens. At Columbia the script was subsequently completely rewritten by David Newman (BONNIE AND CLYDE, SUPERMAN) and later tweaked by Semple.

After SHEENA, Semple did some uncredited writing on a 1986 John Stamos film (NEVER TO YOUNG TO DIE), and wrote two television films before retiring.

 

B.D.