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Frank R. Pierson

Frank R. Pierson

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Also Known As: Frank R Pierson, Frank Romer Pierson Died: July 23, 2012
Born: May 12, 1925 Cause of Death: Undetermined
Birth Place: Chappaqua, New York, USA Profession: screenwriter, producer, director, journalist

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

An enormously gifted filmmaker, Frank Pierson wore many hats throughout his illustrious career, writing, directing and producing some of Hollywoodâ¿¿s most iconic films and TV shows. After getting his start on the small screen with "Have Gun Will Travel" (CBS, 1957-1963) and "Naked City" (ABC, 1958-1963), Pierson segued to motion pictures with the acclaimed comic Western "Cat Ballou" (1965) and followed with the classic prison drama "Cool Hand Luke" (1967). After creating his own series, "Nichols" (NBC, 1971-72), Pierson joined forces with director Sidney Lumet for the high-paced heist thriller "The Anderson Tapes" (1971) and the unforgettable crime thriller "Dog Day Afternoon" (1975), which won him the Oscar for Best Screenplay. He went on to write and direct the Oscar-winning remake of "A Star Is Born" (1976), but made several enemies â¿¿ and won a few friends â¿¿ for writing a revealing magazine piece on his behind-the-scenes clashes with star Barbra Streisand. Meanwhile, after scripting the films "In Country" (1989) and "Presumed Innocent" (1990), Pierson focused his directing efforts toward the small screen with several classy, awards-magnet biopics like "Conspiracy" (HBO, 1992), "Citizen Cohn"...

An enormously gifted filmmaker, Frank Pierson wore many hats throughout his illustrious career, writing, directing and producing some of Hollywoodâ¿¿s most iconic films and TV shows. After getting his start on the small screen with "Have Gun Will Travel" (CBS, 1957-1963) and "Naked City" (ABC, 1958-1963), Pierson segued to motion pictures with the acclaimed comic Western "Cat Ballou" (1965) and followed with the classic prison drama "Cool Hand Luke" (1967). After creating his own series, "Nichols" (NBC, 1971-72), Pierson joined forces with director Sidney Lumet for the high-paced heist thriller "The Anderson Tapes" (1971) and the unforgettable crime thriller "Dog Day Afternoon" (1975), which won him the Oscar for Best Screenplay. He went on to write and direct the Oscar-winning remake of "A Star Is Born" (1976), but made several enemies â¿¿ and won a few friends â¿¿ for writing a revealing magazine piece on his behind-the-scenes clashes with star Barbra Streisand. Meanwhile, after scripting the films "In Country" (1989) and "Presumed Innocent" (1990), Pierson focused his directing efforts toward the small screen with several classy, awards-magnet biopics like "Conspiracy" (HBO, 1992), "Citizen Cohn" (HBO, 1992) and "Truman" (HBO, 1995), and later wrote on high-profile series like "The Good Wife" (CBS, 2009- ) and "Mad Men" (AMC, 2007- ). A former president of the Writers Guild of America, as well as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Pierson was a vital voice in the history of filmed entertainment who left behind a glowing and important legacy.

Born May 12, 1925 in Chappaqua, NY, Pierson was raised by his father, Harold, and his mother, Louise, a writer whose autobiography was turned into the seriocomic "Roughly Speaking" (1945), starring Rosalind Russell and Jack Carson. After serving in the U.S. army, he graduated from Harvard University before becoming a correspondent for TIME magazine. Pierson made the fateful leap to Hollywood when he became a writer on the popular Western "Have Gun Will Travel" (CBS, 1957-1963), which followed the adventures of the gunslinger-for-hire Paladin (Richard Boone). Pierson continued to cut his professional teeth on shows like "Naked City" (ABC, 1958-1963) and "Route 66" (CBS, 1960-64), before breaking into films by co-writing the comic Western "Cat Ballou" (1965), starring Jane Fonda and Lee Marvin. A smash with moviegoers, the film earned Pierson an Oscar nomination and served as his calling card for the big screen. After directing the counterculture comedy "The Happening" (1967), which became an enduring cult hit of sorts, Pierson scored another mainstream triumph for co-writing the screenplay for the Paul Newman classic "Cool Hand Luke" (1967). Responsible for the filmâ¿¿s most famous line, "What weâ¿¿ve got here is a failure to communicate," Pierson earned himself another Oscar nomination.

Buoyed by his success, Pierson helped write "The 42nd Annual Academy Awards" (1970), wrote and directed the Anthony Hopkins spy thriller "The Looking Glass War" (1969), and created, produced and directed the new-era Western series "Nichols" (NBC, 1971-72), starring James Garner. Despite the showâ¿¿s contemporary setting, atypical avoidance of violence and the roguish Garner in the lead, the series suffered from low ratings and was canceled. After writing the heist thriller "The Anderson Tapes" (1971) starring Sean Connery, Pierson won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Sidney Lumetâ¿¿s wrenching "Dog Day Afternoon" (1975), the tale of an unstable veteran (Al Pacino) forced to take hostages while caught robbing a Brooklyn bank to pay for his male loverâ¿¿s (Chris Sarandon) sex-change operation. Finely observed and to many a flawless piece of New Hollywood cinema, the film helped solidify both Pacino and Pierson as Hollywood powerhouses. Perhaps his most infamous professional experience, however, came with his next project, the glossy Barbra Streisand-Kris Kristofferson remake of "A Star Is Born" (1976). Although the film was a hit with critics and audiences, and won a Best Original Song Oscar for Streisand and Paul Williams for the lovely "Evergreen," Pierson pulled the veil back from his countless behind-the-scenes clashes in "My Battles With Barbra and Jon," a damning piece for New West magazine that achieved instant and lasting notoriety.

After writing and directing "King of the Gypsies" (1978), Pierson slowed his output but continued to enjoy big-screen success, writing the screenplays for the film adaptations of Bobbie Ann Masonâ¿¿s "In Country" (1989) and Scott Turowâ¿¿s bestseller "Presumed Innocent" (1990). In the 1990s, Pierson found a home as a director on the small screen, winning awards for "Citizen Cohn" (HBO, 1992), as well as earning Emmy nominations for the presidential biopic "Truman" (HBO, 1995), starring Gary Sinise as Give â¿¿em Hell Harry. Pierson went on to direct "Conspiracy" (HBO, 2001), a rather talky but highly dramatic re-enactment of the secret meeting that led to the Nazi plan for the extermination of all Jews in Europe. Later that year, Pierson was elected president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, a position he held for the maximum four consecutive terms, echoing nicely his previous two terms as president of the Writers Guild of America, West. Pierson remained active right up until the end, scripting episodes of "The Good Wife" (CBS, 2009- ) and "Mad Men" (AMC, 2007- ), as well as serving as a producer on both series, before his death on July 23, 2012 from natural causes. He was 87 years old. An intelligent, outspoken writer, director and producer, Pierson was a passionate defender of the art of cinema, as well as a driving force for the industryâ¿¿s need to never stop its attempts to improve, grow and inspire.

By Jonathan Riggs

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Soldier's Girl (2003) Director
2.
  Conspiracy (2001) Director
3.
  Dirty Pictures (2000) Director
4.
  Truman (1995) Director
6.
  Citizen Cohn (1992) Director
8.
  King Of The Gypsies (1978) Director
9.
  Star Is Born, A (1976) Director
10.
  Neon Ceiling, The (1971) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1943:
Served with U.S. Army
:
Worked as a correspondent for <i>Time</i> and <i>Life</i> magazines
1962:
Entered show business as story editor of TV series "Have Gun Will Travel" (CBS); later served as producer and director for the show
1965:
Co-wrote first produced screenplay "Cat Ballou"; received first Academy Award nomination
1967:
Contributed to the script for "Cool Hand Luke"; shared Academy Award nomination
1970:
Directed first feature "The Looking Glass War"; also wrote screenplay
1971:
Directed the award-winning NBC TV-movie "Neon Ceiling"
1975:
Won Oscar for solo screenwriting effort "Dog Day Afternoon"
1976:
Collaborated on the screenplay and directed the Barbra Streisand vehicle "A Star Is Born"
1978:
Penned screenply adaptation and directed "King of the Gypsies"
1980:
Wrote the teleplay for the above average CBS TV biopic "Haywire," based on the memoirs of Brooke Hayward, the daughter of agent Leland Hayward and actress Margaret Sullavan
1981:
Served as president of the Writers Guild of America
1989:
Returned to features as collaborator on the screenplay for the Vietnam-era drama "In Country"
1990:
Collaborated with director Alan J. Pakula on the script for "Presumed Innocent," the feature based on Scott Turow's bestselling novel
1990:
Directed the HBO movie "Somebody Has to Shoot the Picture"
1992:
Helmed the acclaimed HBO biopic "Citizen Cohn," starring James Woods; received Emmy nomination
1993:
Returned as WGA president
1994:
Directed the TNT original "Lakota Woman: Siege at Wounded Knee"
1995:
Helmed the highly-praised HBO biographical drama "Truman," starring Gary Sinise
2000:
Reteamed with James Woods in the docudrama "Dirty Pictures" (Showtime), about the famed incident wherein the director of the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center booked an exhibition of controversial photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe and was then indicted for indecency
2001:
Garnered Emmy nomination for direction of "Conspiracy" (HBO), a docudrama about the Wanasee Conference wherein the Nazis outlined The Final Solution
2001:
Announced as writer and director of "The Last of the Savages"; in development as of summer 2001
2001:
Elected president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; held position for the maximum four consecutive terms
2003:
Directed the acclaimed Showtime movie "Soldier's Girl," based on a true story; film starred Troy Garity and Lee Pace
2004:
Directed David Strathairn and Barbara Hershey in the TV drama "Paradise"
2009:
Was consulting producer on AMC's "Mad Men"; also wrote the "Signal 30" episode in 2012
2010:
Returned to TV series writing with an episode of "The Good Wife" (CBS)
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Harvard University: Cambridge , Massachusetts - 1950

Notes

Pierson has taught at the University of Arizona, the Canadian Film Centre in Toronto and the AFI and was an adjunct professor of screenwriting at USC.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Helene Szamet. Married on June 24, 1990.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Harold C Pierson.
mother:
Louise Pierson.
son:
Michael Pierson.
daughter:
Eve Pierson.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

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