Gore Vidal


Essayist, Novelist

About

Also Known As
Eugene Luther Gore Vidal, Cameron Kay, Edgar Box
Birth Place
West Point, New York, USA
Born
October 03, 1925
Died
July 31, 2012
Cause of Death
Complications From Pneumonia

Biography

A true renaissance figure of the postwar American literary and political scene, Gore Vidal enjoyed concurrent careers as a best-selling novelist, celebrated Broadway playwright, A-list Hollywood screenwriter, politician, activist, essayist and historian. A veteran of World War II, Vidal had lost the love of his life at the Battle of Iwo Jima and channeled his grief into the autobiographi...

Bibliography

"The Golden Age"
Gore Vidal (2000)
"Gore Vidal: A Biography"
Fred Kaplan, Doubleday (1999)
"The Smithsonian Institution"
Gore Vidal (1998)
"Gore Vidal"
Susan Baker and Curtis S Gibson, Greenwood Press (1997)

Notes

In 1971, Vidal infuriated author Norman Mailer with a review which resulted in a highly publicized literary feud.

Biography

A true renaissance figure of the postwar American literary and political scene, Gore Vidal enjoyed concurrent careers as a best-selling novelist, celebrated Broadway playwright, A-list Hollywood screenwriter, politician, activist, essayist and historian. A veteran of World War II, Vidal had lost the love of his life at the Battle of Iwo Jima and channeled his grief into the autobiographical novel, The City and the Pillar, which caused a scandal in the publishing world but was later canonized as a landmark of the American gay rights movement. An ally of Democratic President John F. Kennedy, Vidal tangled often with conservative writer William F. Buckley, with whom he feuded publicly for 30 years. In Hollywood, Vidal turned out screenplays for such films as "Suddenly, Last Summer" (1959) and "Ben-Hur" (1959), while his theatrical writing and fiction inspired such features as "Visit to a Small Planet" (1959) and the camp classic "Myra Breckinridge" (1970). Receding from public life in later years due to illness, Vidal remained a vibrant figure, surviving his political and literary rivals to endure as the last man standing of 20th Century arts and letters.

Eugene Luther Gore Vidal was born on Oct. 3, 1925, in the Cadet Hospital of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY. Vidal was named for his father, Eugene Luther Vidal, who was, at the time, an aeronautics instructor employed at the legendary institution. Later a cabinet appointee under President Franklin D. Roosevelt and a pioneering Army Air Corps pilot, Vidal, Sr. went on to co-found Eastern Airlines, TWA and Northeast Airlines; the later alongside renowned aviatrix and rumored love interest, Amelia Earhart. Following his parents' 1935 divorce, Vidal was raised in Washington, D.C. by his actress-socialite mother Nina and his maternal grandfather, U.S. Senator Thomas Pryor Gore, in whose honor he adopted the simplified name of Gore Vidal. Because his grandfather had been blind since childhood - a handicap that did not prevent him from co-founding the state of Oklahoma - Vidal often read to him and was heavily influenced in his own burgeoning world view by the elder Gore's politics and love of literature, history and language.

The path of Gore Vidal's formative education took him from the Quaker-run Sidwell Friends School to St. Albans, a college preparatory school in Washington, D.C. At the Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, Vidal was a member of a campus movement in opposition to America's entry into the looming Second World War. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 and his 1943 graduation from Exeter, the 17-year-old Vidal enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves and served as a warrant officer and first mate on a supply ship in the Northern Pacific. Ferrying freight and passengers between the Aleutian Islands during a frigid squall, Vidal suffered hypothermia, which badly damaged one leg. While recuperating in a military hospital, he completed a novel he had begun writing during his long night watches. Its title, taken from the Aleut word for wind storm, Williwaw, was published in 1946 by E. P. Dutton and was one of the first of a wave of novels written by returning U.S. servicemen.

While working as an editor at Dutton, Vidal completed a second novel. Set among the nightclubs, cocktail lounges and after-hours gay clubs of Manhattan, the semi-autobiographical In a Yellow Wood chronicled the postwar dissatisfaction of a former soldier who takes a lucrative but soul-crushing job as a stockbroker. The novel's poor reception, coupled with his own professional frustration, drove Vidal to journey to Guatemala, where he wrote his third novel. Published in January 1948, The City and the Pillar was a thinly-veiled memoir of Vidal's love for a fellow St. Albans student, an all-star athlete who was killed at the Battle of Iwo Jima. The novel's non-judgmental view of homosexuality, and Vidal's portrayal of gay men as masculine and normal, made The City and the Pillar a cause célèbre as well as a bestseller. Though the work was later identified as a landmark in the advancement of gay rights, Vidal found himself blacklisted in the publishing world, with no major American publication willing to review his work for the next six years.

In 1954, Gore satisfied a long-suppressed desire to write for films. Between 1956 and 1970, he authored a number of screenplays and collaborated on several more as an uncredited rewrite man. While under contract to MGM, he reworked elements from The City and the Pillar into William Wyler's "Ben Hur" (1959), informing the central relationship between Charlton Heston's beleaguered Judean and Stephen Boyd's Roman tribune with homoerotic overtones. Vidal turned his hand to several film adaptations, including Paddy Chayefsky's "The Catered Affair" (1956) for director Richard Brooks, Tennessee Williams' "Suddenly, Last Summer" (1959) for Joseph L. Mankiewicz, and his own "The Best Man" (1964) for Franklin J. Schaffner. Early in his career, Vidal had worked in live television, penning episodes of the omnibus series "Suspense" (CBS, 1949-1954), "Studio One in Hollywood" (CBS, 1948-1958) and "The Philco Television Playhouse" (NBC, 1948-1955). For CBS' "Climax!" (1954-58), he crafted an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as a parable of personal responsibility.

During his blacklist period, Vidal wrote pulp fiction under the alias of Edgar Box. Vidal's three mystery novels featuring PR man-turned-amateur sleuth Peter Cutler Sergeant II sold briskly and attracted positive reviews by the very newspapers and magazines that had shut him out of their book review sections. In 1957, Gore's stage adaptation of his earlier satiric teleplay "Visit to a Small Planet" became a Broadway hit, winning a Tony Award and running for nearly a year at the Booth Theater; the play was adapted by Paramount Pictures for a 1959 film starring Jerry Lewis. Vidal was a Tony Award nominee for "The Best Man," which ran for 15 months at New York's Morosco Theater, but he had less success with his next three Broadway plays, which closed after limited runs. Beginning in 1961, Vidal became a familiar face on such talk shows as "The Jack Paar Show" (NBC, 1957-1962), "The Dick Cavett Show" (ABC, 1968-1972) and "The David Frost Show" (syndicated, 1969-1972), as well as popped up on Screen Gems' "Playboy After Dark" (1969) and "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In" (NBC, 1967-1973).

At the height of his notoriety, Gore was as well known for his politics as for his fiction. A congressional campaign in 1960 and a senate run in 1982 both ended in defeat, though Gore drew many high-profile supporters. He was a frequent White House visitor during the abbreviated administration of Democratic President John F. Kennedy, but JFK's brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, viewed the author with disdain. The two became bitter enemies, despite his sister-in-law Jacqueline Kennedy's affection for Vidal. A vocal opponent of the Vietnam War, he helped found the short-lived People's Party, which touted Dr. Benjamin Spock as a presidential candidate in 1972. During the 1968 Democratic Convention, Vidal participated in a series of televised debates with conservative author William F. Buckley. The discourse turned combative and spilled over onto the pages of Esquire, which had commissioned essays by both men. The feud was renewed in 2003, when Esquire reran Vidal's "A Distasteful Encounter with William F. Buckley." Gore also enjoyed long-running feuds with novelists Truman Capote and Norman Mailer. Gore and Mailer came to blows in the green room of "The Dick Cavett Show" in 1971 but would reconcile over a decade later.

Vidal received more than his fair share of negative press for two X-rated feature films with which he was associated. Based on Vidal's 1968 bestseller, Michael Sarne's "Myra Breckinridge" (1970) was an unmitigated box office disaster that was swiftly ranked among the worst films of all time. Vidal also sued unsuccessfully to have his name removed as the screenwriter of "Caligula" (1979) after producer and Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione added hardcore pornographic inserts. Throughout his tenure in Hollywood, Vidal made a scattering of film appearances, playing a party delegate in "The Best Man" (1964), a frontier preacher in his own "Billy the Kid" (1989) for cable television, a conservative senator patterned after William F. Buckley in Tim Robbins' political satire "Bob Roberts" (1992), and a sinister aerospace executive in the dystopian science fiction thriller "Gattaca" (1997). He also appeared as himself in Federico Fellini's "Roma" (1972) and in an episode of the animated sitcom "The Simpsons" (Fox, 1989- ). On July 31, 2012, Vidal passed away in his Los Angeles home of complications from pneumonia. He was 86 years old.

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia (2013)
Himself
Shrink (2009)
Zero inchiesta sull'11 settembre (2008)
Obscene (2007)
The U.S. vs. John Lennon (2006)
Global Haywire: A Short History of Planet Malfunction (2006)
Inside Deep Throat (2005)
Himself
Why We Fight (2005)
Himself
One Bright Shining Moment (2005)
Gattaca (1997)
Shadow Conspiracy (1997)
The Celluloid Closet (1995)
Himself
With Honors (1994)
Bob Roberts (1992)
Billy The Kid (Gore Vidal's) (1989)
Minister
Fellini's Roma (1972)
Himself
Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
operation room witness

Writer (Feature Film)

The Palermo Connection (1991)
Screenwriter
Billy The Kid (Gore Vidal's) (1989)
Screenwriter
The Sicilian (1987)
Screenplay
The Sicilian (Director's Cut) (1987)
Screenplay
The Last of the Mobile Hotshots (1970)
Screenwriter
Is Paris Burning? (1966)
Screenwriter
The Best Man (1964)
Screenwriter
Ben-Hur (1959)
Contract Writer
Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
Screenwriter
The Scapegoat (1959)
Adaptation
I Accuse! (1958)
Screenwriter
The Catered Affair (1956)
Screenwriter

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia (2013)
Other
Why We Fight (2005)
Other
Inside Deep Throat (2005)
Other
The Celluloid Closet (1995)
Other
Caligula (1979)
Other
Fellini's Roma (1972)
Other
Myra Breckinridge (1970)
Source Material (From Novel)

Cast (Special)

Susan Sarandon: Rebel With a Cause (1999)
Thomas Jefferson (1997)
Urban Heartlands: Gore Vidal's Washington, D.C. (1996)
Host
Gore Vidal's Gore Vidal (1995)
In Search of Oz (1994)
Tennessee Williams: Orpheus of the American Stage (1994)
Amelia Earhart (1993)
Memory & Imagination: New Pathways to the Library of Congress (1992)
America at Risk: All the President's Women (1992)
Paris Live! The French Revolution Bicentennial (1989)

Writer (TV Mini-Series)

Dress Gray (1986)
Screenwriter

Misc. Crew (TV Mini-Series)

Gore Vidal's Lincoln (1988)
Source Material (From Novel)

Life Events

1943

Served in U.S. Army Reserve Corps in the Aleutian Islands

1946

Published first novel <i>Williwaw</i> based upon his Alaskan Harbor Detachment duty

1948

Third novel <i>The City and the Pillar</i> caused controversy because its hero was a homosexual

1951

Subject of a chapter in John W. Aldridge's book <i>After a Lost Generation: A Critical Study of the Writers of Two Wars</i>, which sharply criticized his work

1955

Enjoyed success with TV presentation "Visit to a Small Planet" (NBC), later adapted as a Broadway play (1957) and a film (1960)

1955

TV writing debut, an adaptation of the George S. Kaufman-Edna Ferber Broadway play from the 1930s, "Stage Door"

1956

Screenwriting debut, "The Catered Affair"; based on Paddy Chayefsky's play

1956

Hired as a contract screenwriter by MGM

1959

Collaborated with Tennessee Williams in the feature adaptation of "Suddenly, Last Summer"; starred Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, and Montgomery Clift

1959

Contributed to the screenplay for the Oscar-winning Best Picture "Ben-Hur"

1960

Ran unsuccessful bid for New York Congressional seat

1964

Wrote film adaptation of "The Best Man"; awarded Cannes Film Festival Critics' Prize

1966

Co-wrote the script "Is Paris Burning?"

1968

Penned the play "Weekend"

1968

Published controversial book <i>Myra Breckinridge</i>, a Hollywood satire

1970

Adapted "Last of the Mobile Hot Shots" from a play by Tennessee Williams

1972

First film appearance, "Fellini's Roma"

1972

Wrote the play "An Evening with Richard Nixon"

1979

Wrote the original screenplay for the controversial film "Caligula"; later asked his name be removed after director Tinto Brass and actor Malcolm McDowell rewrote the script

1986

Wrote the NBC miniseries "Dress Gray"

1988

Wrote the novel for the NBC miniseries "Lincoln"

1989

Scripted the TNT miniseries "Gore Vidal's 'Billy the Kid'"; also had small role as a minister

1990

Co-wrote the screenplay for "The Palermo Connection"

1992

Played major supporting role in "Bob Roberts"

1994

Appeared as a college professor in "With Honors"

1995

Published his first memoir <i>Palimpsest</i>

1997

Played a congressman in "Shadow Conspiracy"

1997

Cast opposite Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman in sci-fi drama "Gattaca"

2002

Appeared in the indie film "Igby Goes Down"

2003

Featured in the documentary "The Education of Gore Vidal"

2004

Appeared on "Da Ali G Show" (HBO) where host Sascha Baron Cohen intentionally mistook him for Vidal Sassoon

2006

Voiced himself on the Fox animated series "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy"

2007

Wrote second memoir <i>Point to Point Navigation: A Memoir</i>

2009

Published <i>Gore Vidal: Snapshots in History's Glare</i>

2011

Books from 1950s written under pseudonym Edgar Box reissued, notably <i>Death in the Fifth Position</i> (1952), <i>Death Before Bedtime</i> (1953) and <i>Death Likes It Hot</i> (1954)

Videos

Movie Clip

Scapegoat, The (1959) - Traitorous Animals, Cats Melancholy vacationing English teacher Barratt (Alec Guinness) at first doesn't realized he's being shadowed, his first night in a French country town, early in The Scapegoat, 1959, from a Gore Vidal script, co-starring Bette Davis.
Scapegoat, The (1959) - An Emptiness In The Heart Opening the MGM-British production, with affecting narration by Alec Guinness, from Gore Vidal’s screenplay based on Daphne Du Maurier’s novel, as English teacher Barratt, arriving on the ferry at Port Boulogne, Calais, then reaching Le Mans (though the city is never named) and it’s famous cathedral, briefly meeting Peter Bull, in The Scapegoat, 1959, co-starring Bette Davis.
Scapegoat, The (1959) - Lie To Me Later Alec Guinness, who really is Barrat, an English teacher just in from Paris, meets daffy French countess Du Gue (Bette Davis) who believes he's her look-alike nephew, who has disappeared, leaving his troubles to his twin, in The Scapegoat, 1959, from a Daphne Du Maurier novel.
Myra Breckinridge (1970) - Get Your Resumès Out First appearance by Mae West, brought out of retirement by a big payday and a contract that let her write her own dialogue and approve her wardrobe, as already-discussed Hollywood agent Leticia Van Allen, with Tom Selleck among her recruits, and clips with Richard Widmark in Kiss Of Death (1947) and Laurel & Hardy in Great Guns, 1941, from Myra Breckinridge, 1970, starring Raquel Welch, from the Gore Vidal novel.
Myra Breckinridge (1970) - You Gotta S-M-I-L-E To Be H-A-P-P-Y Following the opening in which Rex Reed, as critic “Myron” Breckinridge got a sex-change operation, Shirley Temple’s song (from Stowaway, 1937, by Harry Revel and Mack Gordon) accompanies the introduction of Raquel Welch as the title character (we’re supposed to understand that Rex Reed now exists only as her alter-ego), with a creditable dance routine on Hollywood then Sunset Blvd., in Myra Breckinridge, 1970, from the Gore Vidal novel.
Myra Breckinridge (1970) - The Notorious Buck Loner Raquel Welch as the newly trans-gendered title character narrates, roughly from the Gore Vidal novel, Michael Sarne directing, entering the bogus acting school owned by her uncle-in-law, the ex-cowboy actor Buck Loner (John Huston), the acting-instructor is not credited, beginning her outrageous ploy, in Myra Breckinridge, 1970.
Catered Affair, The (1956) - Your One Living Daughter Just after the opening, the low key announcement from Jane (Debbie Reynolds) to mom Aggie (Bette Davis) and cabby dad Tom (Ernest Borgnine) that she plans to marry, in The Catered Affair, 1956, from Paddy Chayefsky's teleplay and Gore Vidal's screenplay.
Suddenly, Last Summer - Life Steals Everything Psychiatrist Cukrowicz (Montgomery Clift) arrives at the invitation of Violet (Katharine Hepburn, with a famous entrance), whose son Sebastian has died, and who has proposed a large gift to the mental hospital where he works, in Suddenly, Last Summer, 1959, also starring Elizabeth Taylor.
Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) - I'm Going To Attack You Sane but institutionalized Catherine (Elizabeth Taylor), makes trouble for the matron (Joan Young), as she meets lobotomy specialist Cukrowicz (Montgomery Clift), visiting on behalf of her rich, evil aunt, in Suddenly, Last Summer, 1959, Gore Vidal's screenplay from Tennessee Williams' play.
Suddenly, Last Summer - That Nice Young Doctor Mother Grace (Mercedes McCambridge) and brother George (Gary Raymond) visit Catherine (Elizabeth Taylor) at the mental hospital, her doctor (Montgomery Clift) attending, to explain a contingency in a bequest from a dead cousin, in Suddenly, Last Summer, 1959, from a Tennessee Williams play.
Catered Affair, The (1956) - Only Immediate Family Tom and Aggie (Ernest Borgnine, Bette Davis), parents of bride-to-be Jane (Debbie Reynolds), hosting Mr. and Mrs. Halloran (Robert Simon, Madge Kennedy), parents of Ralph (Rod Taylor), cranky Uncle Jack (Barry Fitzgerald) arriving to undermine appearances, in The Catered Affair, 1956.
Left Handed Gun, The (1958) - He Is Death's Child From Leslie Stevens' script based on Gore Vidal's teleplay, the lyric in the theme by William Goyen, Paul Newman's Billy the Kid stumbles and mumbles and meets first Tom (James Best), then rancher Tunstall (Colin Keith-Johnston), in Arthur Penn's radical western The Left Handed Gun, 1958.

Trailer

Family

Thomas Gore
Grandfather
Senator.
Eugene Luther Vidal
Father
Aviator, aeronautics instructor. Divorced from Vidal's mother in 1935.
Nina Vidal
Mother
Divorced from Vidal's father in 1935.
Hugh Auchincloss
Step-Father
Nini
Half-Sister
Jacqueline Bouvier
Step-Sister
Book editor. Former First Lady of the USA.
Lee Bouvier
Step-Sister

Bibliography

"The Golden Age"
Gore Vidal (2000)
"Gore Vidal: A Biography"
Fred Kaplan, Doubleday (1999)
"The Smithsonian Institution"
Gore Vidal (1998)
"Gore Vidal"
Susan Baker and Curtis S Gibson, Greenwood Press (1997)
"Palimpsest"
Gore Vidal, Random House (1995)
"United States: Essays 1952-1992"
Gore Vidal (1993)
"Live from Golgotha"
Gore Vidal (1992)
"Gore Vidal: Writer Against the Grain"
Jay Parini (1992)
"Hollywood"
Gore Vidal (1990)
"Empire"
Gore Vidal (1987)
"Lincoln"
Gore Vidal (1984)
"Duluth"
Gore Vidal (1983)
"Rocking the Boat"
Gore Vidal (1982)
"The Second American Revolution: And Other Essays 1976-82"
Gore Vidal (1982)
"Gore Vidal"
Robert F Kiernan (1982)
"Creation"
Gore Vidal (1981)
"Views From a Window: Conversations With Gore Vidal"
(1980)
"Kalki"
Gore Vidal (1978)
"1876"
Gore Vidal (1976)
"Matter of Fact and Fiction: Essays 1973-76"
Gore Vidal (1976)
"Myron"
Gore Vidal (1975)
"Burr"
Gore Vidal (1973)
"Homage to Daniel Shays: Collected Essays 1952-1972"
Gore Vidal (1972)
"Two Sisters"
Gore Vidal (1970)
"Myra Breckinridge"
Gore Vidal (1968)
"Washington, D.C."
Gore Vidal (1967)
"Julian"
Gore Vidal (1964)
"Three"
Gore Vidal (1962)
"A Thirsty Evil"
Gore Vidal (1956)
"Death Likes It Hot"
Edgar Box (1954)
"Messiah"
Gore Vidal (1954)
"Death Before Bedtime"
Edgar Box (1953)
"The Judgment of Paris"
Gore Vidal (1952)
"Death in the Fifth Position"
Edgar Box (1952)
"A Search for the King"
Gore Vidal (1950)
"Dark Green, Bright Red"
Gore Vidal (1950)
"A Star's Progress"
Katherine Everard, Dutton (1950)
"The Seasonof Comfort"
Gore Vidal (1949)
"The City and the Pillar"
Gore Vidal (1948)
"In a Yellow Wood"
Gore Vidal (1947)
"Williwaw"
Gore Vidal (1946)
"Thieves Fall Out"
Cameron Kay

Notes

In 1971, Vidal infuriated author Norman Mailer with a review which resulted in a highly publicized literary feud.