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Also Known As: Albert Horton Foote Jr. Died: March 4, 2009
Born: March 14, 1916 Cause of Death: Natural Causes
Birth Place: Wharton, Texas, USA Profession: playwright, screenwriter, producer, novelist, actor, director

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and two-time Oscar-winner Horton Foote was originally an actor who began writing plays as a member of the American Actors Theatre in order to assure himself good parts. However, when critics praised his playwriting over his acting, he eventually took the hint and devoted himself to writing that has earned acclaim for its poignant evocations of rural America. Much of Foote's work has centered around Wharton, TX, the town of his birth, from his first produced play "Wharton Dance" (1940) to the nine-play series about four generations of his Texas forebearers, "The Orphans' Home", which yielded the films "1918" (1985), "On Valentine's Day" (1986) and "Convicts" (1991), among others. In addition to adapting his own work for the screen, he has also penned screen adaptations of Harper Lee ("To Kill a Mockingbird" 1962), William Faulkner ("Tomorrow" 1972) and John Steinbeck ("Of Mice and Men" 1992). Live TV of the 1950s afforded Foote a tremendous opportunity to hone his skills. In 1953 alone, ten of his one-hour dramatic scripts aired, including the original version of "The Trip to Bountiful" on NBC's "Philco Television Playhouse". He adapted Faulkner's "The Old Man" (1958)...

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and two-time Oscar-winner Horton Foote was originally an actor who began writing plays as a member of the American Actors Theatre in order to assure himself good parts. However, when critics praised his playwriting over his acting, he eventually took the hint and devoted himself to writing that has earned acclaim for its poignant evocations of rural America. Much of Foote's work has centered around Wharton, TX, the town of his birth, from his first produced play "Wharton Dance" (1940) to the nine-play series about four generations of his Texas forebearers, "The Orphans' Home", which yielded the films "1918" (1985), "On Valentine's Day" (1986) and "Convicts" (1991), among others. In addition to adapting his own work for the screen, he has also penned screen adaptations of Harper Lee ("To Kill a Mockingbird" 1962), William Faulkner ("Tomorrow" 1972) and John Steinbeck ("Of Mice and Men" 1992).

Live TV of the 1950s afforded Foote a tremendous opportunity to hone his skills. In 1953 alone, ten of his one-hour dramatic scripts aired, including the original version of "The Trip to Bountiful" on NBC's "Philco Television Playhouse". He adapted Faulkner's "The Old Man" (1958) for "Playhouse 90" (CBS), earning an Emmy nomination, and would (ironically enough) win an Emmy for a later rendition of it for "Hallmark Hall of Fame" (CBS, 1997). Foote made his feature screenwriting debut with Cornel Wilde's "Storm Fear" (1958) but really came into his own with his Oscar-winning screenplay for "To Kill a Mockingbird". He added a second Academy Award for his only original feature screenplay to date, "Tender Mercies" (1982), the episodic portrait of a country singer which also earned a Best Actor Oscar for Robert Duvall. (Duvall, who had debuted as Boo Radley in "Mockingbird", also acted in "The Chase" (1966), "Tomorrow", "1918" (1985) and "Convicts", all scripted by Foote.)

Despite his success in film and TV, Foote remains first and foremost a playwright, still churning out work in his eighties. NYC's Signature Theater Company honored him by devoting its 1994-95 season to him; one of those productions, "The Young Man From Atlanta", earned the 1995 Pulitzer Prize and had a brief run on Broadway. He also provided the voice of Jefferson Davis for Ken Burns' critically acclaimed documentary "The Civil War" (PBS, 1990), and adaptations of his plays "The Habitation of Dragons" (TNT, 1992) and "Lily Dale" (Showtime, 1996) preceded the Showtime production of "Horton Foote's Alone" (1997). Two of his children, Hallie Foote and Horton Foote Jr, are actors who have appeared frequently in his work both on stage and screen.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Lily Dale (1996) Voice Of Old Horace
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1936:
At age 20, moved to New York City
1938:
Co-founded the American Actors Theatre
1940:
First one-act play, "Wharton Dance" was produced at the American Actors Theatre; also played the lead role
1942:
First full-length play, "Texas Town"; also acted
1947:
First televised play, "Only the Heart" (NBC)
1953:
His "The Trip to Bountiful" was aired on NBC's "Philco Television Playhouse"; starred Lillian Gish
1955:
First produced screenplay, "Storm Fear"
1960:
Wrote the adaptation of William Faulkner's "Tomorrow"; preceded the feature version by 12 years
1962:
Wrote the screenplay adaptation for Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockingbird"; first collaboration with actor Robert Duvall
1962:
NYC theatrical debut of "The Trip to Bountiful"; again starring Lillian Gish
1965:
Adapted his play "The Traveling Lady" (1954 NYC debut) as the film "Baby, the Rain Must Fall"
1966:
His play "The Chase" was adapted by Lillian Hellman for the screen; starred Robert Redford, Jane Fonda and Robert Duvall
1983:
Debut as an associate producer (with Robert Duvall) with "Tender Mercies"
1985:
Made debut as a producer with "The Trip to Bountiful"; directed by Foote's cousin Peter Masterson
1990:
Provided the voice of Jefferson Davis in Ken Burns' critically-acclaimed documentary, "The Civil War"
1994:
Honored by the Signature Theater Company in NYC with a season devoted to his work
1995:
Earned Pulitzer Prize in Drama for "The Young Man from Atlanta"
1996:
TV adaptation of his play "Lily Dale" directed by Masterston for Showtime
1997:
Earned Emmy for his adaptation of "William Faulkner's Old Man"
1997:
Scripted the original teleplay "Horton Foote's Alone" (Showtime)
2009:
Earned a posthumous Tony Award nomination for his play, "Dividing the Estate"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Pasadena Playhouse: Pasadena , California - 1933 - 1935
Tamara Daykarhanova School of Theatre: New York , New York - 1937 - 1939

Notes

Inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1998.

In addition to winning an Emmy, Foote's 1997 adaptation of Faulkner's "The Old Man" won a Humanitas Award.

He was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 1996.

Received the National Medal of Arts from US President Bill Clinton (2000).

"I guess I still feel sanguine about the theater. You can't kill it really. It's gonna find a way. It may be a different form, or a different venue. We may not have theater that we knew, but there's gonna be theater. There has to be. It's just too important a force, I think." --Horton Foote quoted in New York Newsday, March 8, 1995.

"I got paid the handsome sum of a thousand dollars to write 'The Trip to Bountiful'. And let me tell you, in those days that was a lot of money, at least for this writer, it was. And we got Lillian Gish to do it. And Eva Marie Saint was in it and Eileen Heckart and John Beal. And I hadn't realized the power of television. The phones didn't stop ringing that night. Well, it was a great tribute to Miss Gish, because, you know, she had fans all over America, and they were just wild to see her again. She was wonderful in it.

"They asked me to enlarge it, and I did, into a three-act play, and we took it to New York. Then, for some reason, I felt very wedded to Miss Gish doing the part in the film, and for some reason Hollywood had the notion that she wasn't bankable. So I was offered through the years--I don't know whether they were willing to do it--'I'll do this if we can get Hepburn,' or 'I'll do this if we can get . . . ,' and I said, 'No. I want Miss Gish.' And that went on until Miss Gish had her ninetieth birthday, and even I had to realize that the part was too demanding.'" --Foote quoted in Written By, September 1997.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Lillian Vallish Foote. Producer. Married from June 4, 1945 until her death in 1992 at age 69.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Albert Horton Foote. Shopkeeper.
mother:
Hallie Foote.
daughter:
Barbara Hallie Foote. Actor.
son:
Albert Horton Foote. Actor.
son:
Walter Vallish Foote. Producer, director.
daughter:
Daisy Brooks Foote. Actor, screenwriter.
son-in-law:
Tim Guinee. Actor. Married to Daisy Foote.
cousin:
Peter Masterson. Director. Directed film version of "The Trip to Bountiful" (1985); father of actor Mary Stuart Masterson.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Farewell: A Memoir of a Texas Childhood"
"Beginnings: A Memoir" Scribner

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