Horton Foote: America's Storyteller

Horton Foote: America's Storyteller

by Wilborn Hampton
     
 

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The first comprehensive biography of one of
America’s greatest playwrights, whose work—from The Trip to Bountiful to the film adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird—has helped shape American life for more than sixty years.

Horton Foote has garnered a Pulitzer Prize and two Academy Awards. Frank Rich,

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Overview


The first comprehensive biography of one of
America’s greatest playwrights, whose work—from The Trip to Bountiful to the film adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird—has helped shape American life for more than sixty years.

Horton Foote has garnered a Pulitzer Prize and two Academy Awards. Frank Rich, the drama critic for The New York Times, hailed him as "one of America’s living literary wonders," an artist whose subtlety "suggests a collaboration between Faulkner and Chekhov." His work has touched millions and captured the soul of the nation more incisively than any other playwright, yet Horton Foote’s own story is largely unknown to the general public.

Wilborn Hampton, a theater critic for The New York Times who has shared a friendship with Foote for twenty years, has crafted a colorful, compulsively readable biography that recounts Foote’s rich life and extraordinary career, spanning much of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first, and ranging from small-town Texas to Broadway to Hollywood. For six decades, through works such as Tender Mercies and The Young Man from Atlanta, Foote has chronicled the struggles of ordinary people to maintain their dignity in the face of hardship and change. Today, in his nineties, he is still vital and productive.

Hampton affords readers a unique view into his subject’s life and work, his artistic inspirations, and his commitment to portraying American life as he saw it, even at times when no one would listen. Candid and compelling, this is a window into the heart and mind of an extraordinary talent, and into the psyche of America itself.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Playwright and screenwriter Horton Foote's illustrious career was capped shortly before his death in 2009 with the highly acclaimed play Dividing the Estate, which like so much of his work, reflects Foote's smalltown Texas origins and draws on the stories he heard from his wealthy grandmother, black neighbors and servants. In this authorized biography, Hampton, Foote's friend and a New York Times theater critic, reviews the life and career of the man who also won Oscars for his screenplays for To Kill a Mockingbird and Tender Mercies and a Pulitzer for his play The Young Man from Atlanta. Born in 1916 in Wharton, Tex., Foote shifted gears from an unsuccessful acting career when, in 1939, choreographer Agnes de Mille suggested he write a play. According to Hampton, the 1980s was Foote's most satisfying professionally, with the huge success of the film Trip to Bountiful, and the attention of New York Times theater critic Frank Rich, which helped bring Foote back to Broadway. Charting the highs and lows of Foote's remarkable career, this respectful and genial biography will best be appreciated by Foote's devoted fans, theater enthusiasts and budding playwrights and screenwriters. (Sept. 8)
Kirkus Reviews
Fawning biography of playwright and screenwriter Horton Foote (1916-2009). New York Times theater critic Hampton does little to restrain his admiration as he follows Foote from his birth in small-town Wharton, Texas, to his installation in the playwrights' pantheon. By the end of his career, Foote earned two Oscars, a Pulitzer, an Emmy and a Tony nomination. Hampton describes Foote's struggles to make it as an actor, his decision to focus on writing rather than performing (with occasional directing stints), his scripts produced during the "golden age" of 1950s television, his big breaks (especially the screenplay for To Kill a Mockingbird), his debates with executives in Hollywood (who failed to adequately promote Tender Mercies, even after its Oscar wins), his temporary disappearance in the '70s (and consequent financial difficulties), his reemergence in the '90s and his grand end-of-career conception (the nine-play Orphans' Home Cycle). The author charts Foote's long and usually happy marriage and keeps track of his children and their myriad failures and successes-most notably, his daughter Hallie, who performed well, Hampton says, in several of her father's productions. The author occasionally pauses to summarize the plots of Foote's works and to review what critics thought of them. Here, as elsewhere, Hampton seldom quotes discouraging words but frequently quotes at length any encomiums, most prominently those of Times colleague Frank Rich. Scholars and other curious readers will find this work frustrating. The author cites few sources and includes no notes, and he reproduces, without attribution, verbatim conversations from Foote's memoirs. In response to a pivotal question-why Footeis often overlooked in comparison to Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller-Hampton offers a fairly feeble answer: He was too nice a guy. More reverential than critical. Agent: Al Zuckerman/Writers House

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781416566403
Publisher:
Free Press
Publication date:
09/08/2009
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
6.52(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.05(d)

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