skip navigation
Norman Wexler

Norman Wexler

Up
Down

| VIEW ALL

TCM Messageboards
Post your comments here
ADD YOUR COMMENT>

share:

TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (0)

Recent DVDs

 
 

Norman Wexler - NOT AVAILABLE

Find what your looking for faster use the search field below to shop for titles.

SEARCH TCM.COM/SHOP


OR ... Click here to VOTE > for this person to be released on Home Video



Also Known As: Died: August 23, 1999
Born: Cause of Death: heart attack
Birth Place: New Bedford, Massachusetts, USA Profession: screenwriter, playwright, worked in advertising

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

While his output as a screenwriter was hardly prolific (due in part to his struggle with manic depression), Norman Wexler contributed to a handful of films that provided strong roles for leading men and have come to be considered by some critics as "modern classics" from the 1970s. The New England native, who marked time working in advertising in the 1950s and 60s while writing plays, struck pay dirt with his first produced effort, "Joe" (1970), a dark look at bigotry and violence that showcased the talents of Peter Boyle in the title role. While some found the plot a bit contrived (a button-downed type commits a murder and confesses it to a stranger with whom he forms an unlikely friendship), others were impressed with its spleen-venting attack on small-mindedness. Wexler earned an Oscar nod for his script and his Hollywood career took off in earnest. He shared writing duties on "Serpico" (1973) with Waldo Salt and the pair were rewarded with an Academy Award nomination for their superb adaptation of Peter Maas' nonfiction look at an undercover cop exposing corruption within the ranks of the NYPD. Finely realized by Sidney Lumet, the film also provided actor Al Pacino with a tour de force role, one...

While his output as a screenwriter was hardly prolific (due in part to his struggle with manic depression), Norman Wexler contributed to a handful of films that provided strong roles for leading men and have come to be considered by some critics as "modern classics" from the 1970s. The New England native, who marked time working in advertising in the 1950s and 60s while writing plays, struck pay dirt with his first produced effort, "Joe" (1970), a dark look at bigotry and violence that showcased the talents of Peter Boyle in the title role. While some found the plot a bit contrived (a button-downed type commits a murder and confesses it to a stranger with whom he forms an unlikely friendship), others were impressed with its spleen-venting attack on small-mindedness. Wexler earned an Oscar nod for his script and his Hollywood career took off in earnest. He shared writing duties on "Serpico" (1973) with Waldo Salt and the pair were rewarded with an Academy Award nomination for their superb adaptation of Peter Maas' nonfiction look at an undercover cop exposing corruption within the ranks of the NYPD. Finely realized by Sidney Lumet, the film also provided actor Al Pacino with a tour de force role, one of the best in his career.

Wexler stumbled with his next two features, the uneven adaptations of the novels "Mandingo" (1975) and it sequel "Drum" (1976). While the writer strove to create a true picture of slavery and Southern racism, the stereotypical dialogue, lascivious depictions of miscegenation and overripe performances worked against those intentions. Despite the presence of fine actors (i.e., James Mason, Yaphet Kotto) "Mandingo" falls somewhere between historical soap opera and social statement while "Drum" merely seemed lurid exploitation. Wexler, however, bounced back in 1977 crafting a finely observed character study of a Brooklynite finding himself through disco, "Saturday Night Fever". Once again, the writer centered the story on well-defined male, employing his patented use of "street" vernacular and the marriage of actor John Travolta with the role of Tony Manero resulted in stardom and the birth of a cultural icon. "Saturday Night Fever" also reinvigorated, albeit briefly, the musical genre. Although audiences were not exactly clamoring for it, the screenwriter penned a sequel, "Stayin' Alive" (1983), that was "improved" by director Sylvester Stallone. With a newly buffed Travolta playing Tony as a professional dancer torn between two women, the result was disappointing and cliche-ridden and, ironically, sounded the death knell for screen musicals. After participating in the Writers Guild strike of 1985, Wexler went on to contribute to one final produced screenplay, "Raw Deal" (1986), one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's least successful vehicles.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Raised in Detroit, Michigan
1951:
Moved to NYC
:
Worked in advertising while writing plays, several of which were staged in NYC and at regional theaters
:
Moved to Hollywood
1970:
First produced script, "Joe", starring Peter Boyle; received first Academy Award nomination
1972:
Arrested and jailed for making threats against then President Richard M Nixon
1973:
With Waldo Salt, received credit for screenplay adaptation of "Serpico"; garnered second Oscar nomination
:
Wrote the overheated "Mandigo" (1975) and its sequel "Drum" (1976)
1977:
Rebounded with the screenplay of "Saturday Night Fever"
1983:
Scripted "Stayin' Alive", a sequel to "Saturday Night Fever"; also served as assistant director; director Sylvester Stallone "improved" on the script and received credit as co-author
1986:
Final produced screenplay "Raw Deal", starring Arnold Schwarzenneger
1996:
Play "Forgive Me, Forgive Me Not" staged in L.A.
1997:
Moved to Washington, DC
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Harvard University: Cambridge , Massachusetts - 1948

Notes

A stage version of "Saturday Night Fever" with a book by Nan Knighton based on Wexler's screenplay opened in London in 1998 and on Broadway in 1999.

"Based on the hugely popular bestseller, "Mandingo" turned out to be a trash masterpiece. Its fierce condemnation of slavery and its unsparing depiction of the degradation it might inflict upon master as well as slave is but an excuse to project the most salacious miscegenation-inspired sex fantasies ever seen this side of an X rating. It is also, mercifully, hilarious in its sheer excessiveness." --From LOS ANGELES TIMES, August 26, 1999

Family close complete family listing

daughter:
Erica Wexler. Survived him.
daughter:
Merin Wexler. Survived him.

Please support TCMDB by adding to this information.

Click here to contribute