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"Let no freedom be allowed to novelty, because it is not fitting that any addition should be made to antiquity. Let not the clear faith and belief of our forefathers be fouled by any muddy admixture." -- Pope Sixtus III

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Sidney Sheldon, Requiescat in pace.

One of the icons of twentieth century popular culture has left us.

Legendary author Sidney Sheldon has died from pneumonia, his publicist told AFP, after a prolific career that saw him pen Oscar-winning screenplays and sell over 300 million books. He was 89.

The world-famous novelist died at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, southern California, his publicist of 25 years Warren Cowan said.

"Sidney passed away this afternoon," Cowan told AFP. "He was a beautiful man and a beautiful friend."

Cowan said Sheldon's wife Alexandra and daughter Mary Sheldon were by the author's side. "He was in every sense a first-class human being," Cowan said. "I was his friend and his publicist for over 25 years.

"I never heard anyone speak ill of him. I would travel all over the world and hear only good things about Sidney. He was a wonderful, wonderful man."

Born in 1917 to a German Jewish father and a Russian Jewish mother, Sheldon's writing career began in Hollywood at the age of 20 where he worked on scripts and movies, earning 17 dollars a week.

It was the start of one of the most successful literary careers of the 20th century that would see him become the most translated writer in the world, his works available in 51 languages and sold in 108 countries.

Only in America, baby!

Sheldon would also become the only writer to have won an Oscar, a Tony and an Edgar award, and was eventually the recipient of several prestigious honors which included a writing prize at France's Deauville film festival.

He trained and served as a pilot during World War II and even found time to write a clutch of successful musicals before the war was out.

In 1942 he had three hits on Broadway simultaneously -- "Merry Widow", "Jackpot" and "Dream with Music".

After the war he returned to Hollywood to begin a long career writing for MGM studios and Paramount.

His greatest success as a screenwriter came in 1947 when he won an Oscar for best original screenplay for the movie "The Bachelor and The Bobby Soxer," starring Shirley Temple and Cary Grant, who was to become a close friend.

That was a good movie.

He also earned a Screen Writers' Guild Award in 1948 for the Judy Garland-Fred Astaire musical "Easter Parade." He repeated that success in 1951 for "Annie Get Your Gun."

A foray back to Broadway saw him win a Tony award for co-authoring the musical "Redhead" in 1959.

But while he continued to write movie and television scripts throughout the 1950s and 1960s it was his work as a novelist that catapulted him to worldwide fame starting with his debut novel "The Naked Face" in 1969.

It was mauled by the critics but sold 21,000 copies in hardcover before exploding onto the paperback best-seller lists, with sales of 3.1 million copies. The book earned Sheldon an Edgar award for best new mystery.

Although he regarded the book as a failure because of its relatively small sales compared to the millions who watched his movies and television programs, Sheldon described the first novel as his proudest achievement.

"Finishing a novel when I was certain I didn't have the talent to be a novelist was my proudest achievement as a writer," he said.

Amen to that, Brother.

The "Naked Face's" success provided the launch pad for a literary career that saw Sheldon regularly top of the best-seller lists, his books invariably populated by plucky female characters and malevolent men.

His second novel, "The Other Side of Midnight," stayed top of the New York Times best-seller lists for a then-record 52 weeks.

Seventeen of his books were top best-sellers.

Sheldon said he had never consciously sought to use women as his central characters in so many of his books. "I do favor dispelling the 'dumb blonde' myth," he said in a recent interview.
"The fact that my female characters have strong personalities but are physically attractive reflects the women I have known in my life."

Sheldon also attributed the success of his novels to a desire for realism. "I will not write about any place in the world unless I've been there to personally research it," he said.

"It's my custom to hire a driver to give me a tour of whatever city or town I am in. One night, on a lonely mountain road in Switzerland, I asked my driver where a good place might be to dump a body. I'll never forget the look on his face!" (Thanks to AFP for this obituary.)

Strange...not one mention of I Dream of Jeannie.

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First of all, the word is SEX, not GENDER. If you are ever tempted to use the word GENDER, don't. The word is SEX! SEX! SEX! SEX! For example: "My sex is male." is correct. "My gender is male." means nothing. Look it up. What kind of sick neo-Puritan nonsense is this? Idiot left-fascists, get your blood-soaked paws off the English language. Hence I am choosing "male" under protest.

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