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Overview for Terry Southern
Terry Southern

Terry Southern



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Also Known As: Maxwell Kenton Died: October 29, 1995
Born: May 1, 1924 Cause of Death: Respiratory Failure
Birth Place: Alvarado, Texas, USA Profession: Writer ... screenwriter novelist teacher


A satirical author of fiction, including the then-scandalous erotic adventure, "Candy," Southern contributed his incisive wit and intelligence to several screen gems. His best known screenplays include "Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" (1963), co-written with Stanley Kubrick and Peter George, and "Easy Rider" (1969), co-written with Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper. Southern also worked on "The Cincinnati Kid," "The Loved One" (both 1965) and "Barbarella" (1968). Southern believed that the important thing about writing was "the capacity to astonish," and he demonstrated that credo in "Dr. Strangelove" and "Easy Rider," both of which earned him Academy Award nominations. The former centered on the premise that a fanatical U.S. general launches an atomic attack on the Soviets and the president must deal with all angles, thus playing into the nuclear war issue so debated at the time, while the latter had Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper as dropouts from society searching for the real America on their motorcycles. Unfortunately, they find it. Both films were considered landmarks of the 1960s. Southern's novel, "Candy," co-written with Mason Hoffenberg and published in 1958 in Paris under to pseudonym "Maxwell Kenton," and in the U.S. in 1964, is the story of an innocent girl who is looking for her father. A parody of "Candide," it was considered sexually raunchy, and was almost banned in several states, but courts, while calling it "revolting" and "disgusting," found no basis to keep it from being distributed. Southern was also said to have worked on 40 screenplays which were not produced. Others that were included "The Cincinnati Kid" (1965), which starred Steve McQueen as a gambler seeking to overtake reigning king Edward G. Robinson. "Barbarella" (1968) was for years an embarrassment to its star, Jane Fonda, and is a tale of a 41st Century space adventuress. "The Magic Christian" (1970; based on his 1959 novel), like "Dr. Strangelove," starred Peter Sellers and used the premise that people will do anything for money. After "The Magic Christian" Southern had few projects filmed. In the 1980s and 1990s, he taught screenwriting at New York University and then Columbia University. (He, in fact, died of respiratory failure while walking to class on the Columbia campus.) In 1976, he wrote the CBS film "Stop, Thief," the story of "Boss" Tweed, the corrupt New York politician. During the 1981-1982 season he was one of the writers of "Saturday Night Live." In 1988, Southern collaborated with Whoopi Goldberg on the screenplay for "The Telephone" in which Goldberg starred as an out-of-work actress with psychological problems. Not only was the film considered a low point of Goldberg's career, but she sued to halt distribution and it had only a limited run. Southern's last novel -- and, at the time, his first in 20 years -- was "Texas Summer" (1992), a somewhat autobiographical tale of a boy's coming-of-age in rural Texas. His last published work was the text of "Virgin" (1995), the coffee table book/story of Virgin Records.

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