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Also Known As: Norman Kingsley Mailer Died: November 10, 2007
Born: January 31, 1923 Cause of Death: acute renal failure
Birth Place: Long Branch, New Jersey, USA Profession: novelist, director, screenwriter, poet, journalist, actor

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Norman Mailer was often called a literary lion, even long before his death in November 2007. Well known not only for his anti-war novel The Naked and the Dead (1948), he also found time to squeeze in work as a journalist, provocateur, womanizer, political candidate, film director, and actor. He wrote over 30 books and won the Pulitzer twice for The Armies of the Night (1968) and The Executioner's Song (1979). While his work was hailed and reviled at the same time, the World War II veteran stood his ground and was fearless when it came to his views on U.S. politics, especially during the tumultuous years of the Vietnam and Gulf Wars. He made headlines frequently, most notoriously in 1960 when he stabbed Adele Morales, his second of six wives, with a penknife. Yet Mailer was as much a hero to some as he was a villain in the eyes of others. As a founding father of New Journalism, Mailer was critical in a movement that started in the 1960s; one that eventually gave birth to the weekly alternative newspaper The Village Voice - the modern hipster's Bible. The author and former soldier also contributed much to the film industry, adapting his work such as "The Executioner's...

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Norman Mailer was often called a literary lion, even long before his death in November 2007. Well known not only for his anti-war novel The Naked and the Dead (1948), he also found time to squeeze in work as a journalist, provocateur, womanizer, political candidate, film director, and actor. He wrote over 30 books and won the Pulitzer twice for The Armies of the Night (1968) and The Executioner's Song (1979). While his work was hailed and reviled at the same time, the World War II veteran stood his ground and was fearless when it came to his views on U.S. politics, especially during the tumultuous years of the Vietnam and Gulf Wars. He made headlines frequently, most notoriously in 1960 when he stabbed Adele Morales, his second of six wives, with a penknife. Yet Mailer was as much a hero to some as he was a villain in the eyes of others. As a founding father of New Journalism, Mailer was critical in a movement that started in the 1960s; one that eventually gave birth to the weekly alternative newspaper The Village Voice - the modern hipster's Bible. The author and former soldier also contributed much to the film industry, adapting his work such as "The Executioner's Song" into movies, and directing Ryan O'Neal and Isabella Rossellini in "Tough Guys Don't Dance" (1987). Mailer packed a lot into his 84 years, making both his life and work an integral part of the American cultural fabric.

Norman Kingsley Mailer was born on Jan. 31, 1923 in Long Branch, NJ from a well-known, working class Jewish family. His father, Isaac Barnett, was an accountant of South African descent, while his mother, Fanny Schneider, ran a nursing and housekeeping business. He had one younger sister named Barbara. The family moved to Brooklyn, NY where the budding writer attended and graduated from Boys' High School. In 1939, the future award-winning author attended Harvard University to study aeronautical engineering, but it was writing and publishing that really piqued his collegiate interest. Inspired by the works of iconic writer Ernest Hemingway, Mailer got his first story published when he was 18, just before his graduation in 1943. What came next changed the American cultural, social, and political landscape - to say nothing of the young man's life - forever. The country was in the midst of World War II when the Harvard graduate was drafted into the U.S. Army shortly after college, serving with the 112th Cavalry in the Philippines. His experiences as a soldier - while not in combat but serving as a cook for most of his time in the Army - Mailer still had seen enough to write about for his first novel The Naked and the Dead, penned while attending school at the Sorbonne in Paris, France. He wrote the anti-war piece and instantly became a leading figure in post-war literature, while The Naked and the Dead earned a place in the Modern Library's 100 best novels in the English language.

Some argued that The Naked and the Dead was the last time the writer was equally loved by both fans and critics. What followed was a lifelong literary career that was powerful and provocative, to say the least. Mailer was brash and unapologetic, desiring nothing but to write his next great novel. What followed was equally controversial and thought-provoking literature, including Barbary Shore (1955), The Deer Park (1955), and the essay In Advertisements for Myself (1955). His counterculture views were represented in the latter, a remarkable piece that appeared in The Village Voice, which he co-founded around the same time that New Journalism was revolutionizing the written word and Beat poets like Allen Ginsberg were gaining literary momentum. It was impressive as well that Mailer was not a fan of technology, preferring to handwrite all his work, even penning up to 1,500 words a day.

Hollywood took notice of Mailer around the late 1940s, although his foray into film was moderately successful, compared to his literary career. Producer Samuel Goldwyn put the curly haired author under contract, where he was able to produce, edit and even act in the movies "Beyond the Law" (1968), "Wild 90" (1969), and "Maidstone" (1970). Mailer's movies dealt with everything from politics to the underworld, but the common thread was that they always contained some sort of social commentary, much like his written work. Acting also became a part of the author's long list of accomplishments, when he began appearing in works of avant-garde directors Kenneth Anger and Jonas Mekas, as well as mainstream auteurs Milos Forman and Jean-Luc Godard. Mailer's published material like 1987's Tough Guys Don't Dance were eventually made into films in the 1980s, reminding the baby boomers of a time when activism and taking a stand against the establishment was more important than monetary gain. "The Executioner's Song," one of Mailer's greatest works, was released as a two-part NBC movie in 1987 and starred Tommy Lee Jones and Christine Lahti. In 2004, the man who was regarded as a bit of a literary rock star, made his TV acting debut, playing himself in an episode titled "Norman Mailer, I'm Pregnant," in the long-running drama series "Gilmore Girls" (The WB, 2000-07).

Less enthusiastic about Mailer's work and persona was the feminist movement of the 1960s. Women's liberation was not high on the writer's list of priorities, and those who fought on behalf of equal rights in turn regarded him - with his Alpha Male point of view and brawny physique - as an egotistical, antagonist and literary bully. In a 1971 magazine article, Mailer even wrote that technology's dehumanizing aspect is highly similar to the feminist movement's strides to abolish "blind, goat-kicking lust" from sex. Mailer's personal life was discussed just as much, if not more, than his professional one. He had a larger-than-life personality like many gifted but tormented writers - one who drank heavily, smoked pot, fought and got arrested often. The New Jersey native was also married six times, boasted several mistresses, fathered eight children, and adopted one child. He was first married in 1944 to Beatrice Silverman; last married to former model-turned-writer Norris Church in 1980. Between those two were British heiress and journalist Lady Jeanne Campbell, model-turned- actress Beverly Bentley, Carol Stevens, and Adele Morales, perhaps his most talked about spouse. In 1960, Mailer stabbed Morales repeatedly, almost fatally in fact, during a drunken party. The incident resulted in the author's temporary confinement in New York's Bellevue Mental Hospital, and getting indicted for felonious assault. Mailer pleaded guilty to third-degree assault and received a suspended sentence six months later. Eventually - and not surprisingly - the couple divorced in 1962.

For someone who had such a violent spousal history yet still managed to wed four more women after, displayed how Mailer's life was chock full of contradictions. His political life was not much different. After years of making a name for himself as an anti-war activist - getting arrested in Vietnam War demonstrations, questioning the credibility of his government while covering several Republican and Democratic National Conventions between 1960 and 1996 for publications from Harpers Bazaar to Esquire - Mailer himself decided to run for mayor of New York City in 1969 under the Democratic party. He was unsuccessful, however, and failed to become the party's candidate, with his radical proposal to have the city secede and become the 51st state of the union. Mailer's attempts to free convicted writer Jack Abbott through The Belly of the Beast, a book that revealed the truth about the prison system, proved more successful than his political run, yet it ended in tragedy. Abbott was eventually released on parole in 1980 and went on to murder 22-year-old Richard Adan in New York six weeks later. During a 1992 interview, Mailer described his involvement in the Abbott incident as yet "another episode in my life in which I can find nothing to cheer about or nothing to take pride in."

Mailer's pride always revolved around his work. Sixty years after The Naked and the Dead turned him into an overnight sensation, the provocateur wrote what would be his final novel The Castle in the Forest. Released in January 2008, the book explored the story of Adolf Hitler as a child, wickedly narrated by one of the devil's helpers. Mailer knew his writing still got people to talk. It was said to be the author's best work since his first novel and a suitable final chapter by one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. When Mailer died of renal failure in 2007, renowned author Gay Talese described the perfect way to remember one of the greatest post-World War II writers: "[Mailer] could do anything he wanted to - the movie business, writing, theater, politics," Talese said. "He never thought the boundaries were restricted. He'd go anywhere and try anything."

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Tough Guys Don't Dance (1987) Director
2.
  Maidstone (1971) Director
3.
  Beyond the Law - Blue (1968) Director
4.
  Wild 90 (1968) Director

CAST: (feature film)

2.
 Inside Deep Throat (2005) Himself
3.
 Hijacking Catastrophe (2004) Himself
5.
 New York in the Fifties (2000) Himself (Archival Footage)
6.
 Source, The (1999) Himself
7.
 Cremaster 2 (1999) Harry Houdini
9.
 When We Were Kings (1996) Himself
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1941:
Won college contest; first fiction, "The Greatest Thing in the World", published in <i>Story Magazine</i>
:
Had fiction published in <i>The Harvard Advocate</i>
1944:
Served in US Army
1947:
Published first novel, <i>The Naked and the Dead</i>
1948:
Worked as a journalist at <i>The New York Post</i>
1949:
Under contract to Samuel Goldwyn
:
Edited <i>Dissent</i>
1955:
Was one of the co-founders of the alternative weekly newspaper <i>Village Voice</i>
:
Arrested for stabbing second wife Adele Morales twice with a penknife at their Manhattan apartment on November 20, 1960 after a party, unofficially kicking off his New York mayoral campaign; spent 17 days at Bellevue Hospital under psychiatric observation; grand jury indicted him for felonius assault; six months later, Mailer pled guilty to lesser charge of third-degree assault and recieved suspended sentence
1967:
Jailed for protesting American involvement in Vietnam
1968:
Directed, produced, scripted, edited and acted in "Beyond the Law"
1969:
Ran for the office of mayor of New York
1969:
Made second film "Wild 90"; also editor, screenwriter, actor and producer
1970:
Directed "Maidstone" in which three of his former wives appeared; also edited, wrote and produced
1973:
Sparred with Jose Torres on "The Dick Cavett Show"
1981:
Portrayed architect Stanford White in Milos Forman's "Ragtime"
1987:
Wrote and directed "Tough Guys Don't Dance"
1987:
Appeared in Jean-Luc Godard's "King Lear"
1993:
Acted in "The Obit Writer", directed by Brian Cox
1999:
Had featured role as Harry Houdini in "Cremaster 2"
2000:
Penned the teleplay for "An American Tragedy" (CBS), a miniseries about the O J Simpson murder trial
2004:
Made his TV acting debut by playing himself on an episode of the WB's "Gilmore Girls"
2008:
Penned his final the novel, <i>The Castle in the Forest</i>, which tells the story of Adolf Hitler as a kid; book released after his death
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

P S 161: New York , New York -
Brooklyn Boys High School: Brooklyn , New York - 1939
Harvard University: Cambridge , Massachusetts - 1944
University of Paris: - 1947

Notes

"The few times I've acted, I've been amazed at how real you can feel when you're acting. Sometimes more real than you can feel in your own life." --Norman Mailer in NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE, September 22, 1991

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Beatrice Silverman. Married in 1944; divorced in 1952.
wife:
Adele Morales. Married in 1954; divorced in February 1961; second wife; Mailer was arrested for stabbing her twice with a penknife at their Manhattan apartment on November 20, 1960 after a party; appeared in "Maidstone" (1968).
wife:
Lady Jeanne Campbell. Grand-daughter of Lord Beaverbrook; married in 1962; divorced; mother of Mailer's daughter Kate; has second daughter, playwright-actress Cusi Cram.
wife:
Beverly Bentley. Actor. Married in 1963; divorced; appeared in, among others, first three films Mailer directed including "Maidstone" (1968).
wife:
Carol Stevens. Singer.
wife:
Norris Church. Former art teacher. Appeared in "Ragtime" opposite Mailer; sixth wife; taught art near Little Rock, AR c. 1973.
VIEW COMPLETE COMPANION LISTING

Family close complete family listing

father:
Isaac Barnett Mailer. Accountant. Immigrated to USA from South Africa by way of England.
mother:
Fanny Mailer. Employment agency owner.
sister:
Barbara Alson. Secretary.
daughter:
Susan Mailer. Mother, Beatrice Silverman.
daughter:
Danielle Moschen. Mother Adele Morales.
daughter:
Elizabeth Mailer. Mother, Adele Morales.
daughter:
Kate Mailer. Actor. Born on August 18, 1962; appeared in "King Lear" (1987) as Norman Mailer's daughter, Kate; mother, Jeanne Campbell.
son:
Michael Mailer. Producer. Head of Chronicle Films; mother, Beverly Bentley.
son:
Stephen Mailer. Actor. Born March 10, 1966; mother, Beverly Bentley; married to actress Lindsay Marx.
son:
Matt Mailer. Director.
son:
John Buffalo Mailer. Playwright. Born c. 1978.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"The Naked and the Dead" Rinehart
"Barbary Shore" Rinehart
"The Deer Park" G.P. Putnam's Sons
"Advertisements for Myself" G.P. Putnam's Sons
"Death for the Ladies, and Other Disasters" G.P. Putnam's Sons
"An American Dream" Dial
"Cannibals and Christians" Dial
"Why Are We in Vietnam?" G.P. Putnam's Sons
"Miami and the Siege of Chicago" World and New American Library
"Armies of the Night" World and New American Library
"Running Against the Machine" Doubleday
"Of a Fire on the Moon"
"The Prisoner of Sex"
"The Executioner's Song"
"Black Messiah"
"Of Women and Their Elegance"
"Marilyn, A Biography"
"St George and the Godfather: Collected Essays" William Morrow
"Ancient Evenings"
"Tough Guys Don't Dance"
"Harlot's Ghost"
"Portrait of Picasso as a Young Man: An Interpretive Biography" Atlantic Monthly Press
"Oswald's Tale: An American Mystery" Random House
"The Gospel According to the Son" Random House
"The Last Party" Barricade Books
"The Time of Our Life" Random House
"Mailer" Houghton Mifflin
VIEW COMPLETE BIBLIOGRAPHY

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