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Broadway playwright Pddy Chayefsky picked up two Academy Awards for his films The Hospital and Network.
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The 1964 wartime romantic comedy starred Julie Andrews failed to win over critics and movie-goers alike. Trying to revive a fading genre, Chayefsky adapted the musical Paint Your Wagon for the big screen. The western starred Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood, but it, too, proved to be a disappointment.
As the new decade began,
Chayefsky enjoyed a new wave of success. He wrote the screenplay for The Hospital (1971), which offered a satirical look at the medical establishment. Chayefsky took another institution to task in 1976's Network, exploring the ugly underbelly of television. The movie features one of cinema's most famous scenes when a news anchor (Peter Finch) has a breakdown on air. The news anchor instructs his viewers to open their windows and shout "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore." His command began a popular catchphrase. Directed by Sidney Lumet, the film netted four Academy Awards, including one for Chayefsky's screenplay. Some thought that Chayefsky had gone over the deep end with Network, but he insisted that it was a realistic portrayal of the news media, stating, "It's the world that's gone nuts, not me. It's the world that's turned into a satire."
Chayefsky tackled a new literary form later in his life, publishing his first novel, Altered States, in 1979. He also adapted this science-fiction drama for the movies, but he had trouble with the production. The film went through two directors—first Sidney Lumet and then Ken Russell—and Chayefsky clashed with both of them. While Russell insisted that the final film version remained true to Chayefsky's script, the famous playwright had his name removed from the credits; he was listed under the pseudonym "Sidney Aaron."
Disappointed, Chayefsky returned to playwriting. He was reportedly at work on a new play about the Alger Hiss trial, but he wasn't able to finish it. On August 1, 1981, Chayefsky died of cancer in a New York City hospital. Many famous figures from the theatrical, cinematic and literary worlds turned out for his memorial service, including David Mamet, Sidney Lumet and Bob Fosse. He was remembered for his distinctive dialogue style, for his sharp satirical wits and for his unwavering support of love as tool for redemption.
Chayefsky had one son, Daniel, from his marriage to Susan Sackler. The couple married in 1945 and remained together until Paddy's death.
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