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‘Splash,’ ‘Stern’ writer Bruce Jay Friedman dead at 90
Bruce Jay Friedman, an Oscar-nominated screenplay writer and popular playwright and author known for the wry comedy and subtle pathos of such novels as “Stern” and “About Harry Towns” and for his scripts for “Splash” and “Stir Crazy,” has died at age 90.
Son Kipp Friedman told The Associated Press that he died Wednesday in New York City. He cited no specific cause.
Bruce Jay Friedman’s stories of modern angst appealed to fans and critics of plays, films and books. His successes on stage included “Scuba Duba” and “Steambath,” while fiction readers enjoyed “Stern,” an urban Jew’s unhappy transition to suburban life; and “About Harry Towns,” the sex and drug adventures of a screenplay writer not quite able to enjoy his freedom.
Author of more than a dozen books, Friedman was a favorite Hollywood wordsmith, whether for his work on “Splash,” for which he shared an Academy Award nomination, or as the author of a comic take on bachelorhood that became the Steve Martin comedy “The Lonely Guy.” His acting credits included Nora Ephron’s “You’ve Got Mail” and Woody Allen’s “Husbands and Wives.”
His professional life was mirrored by an A-list social life. He talked books with Philip Roth and William Styron, endured the drunken taunts of Norman Mailer, lunched with Mel Brooks and attended a birthday party for “Stir Crazy” star Richard Pryor.
Among his closest friends were two of the most popular authors of the 1960s and ’70s, Joseph Heller and Mario Puzo. In his 2011 memoir “Lucky Bruce,” Friedman remembered Puzo discussing a book he was working on and asking Friedman what he thought of the title.
“Frankly, it doesn’t do much for me,” Friedman told him as the two smoked cigars at the Beverly Hills Hotel. “It sounds too domestic.”
Puzo disagreed and the book would be known to millions by the title he preferred, “The Godfather.”
Friedman, descended from Jewish immigrants, was born and raised in New York City and studied journalism at the University of Missouri. He loved adventure stories as a child and began thinking seriously about writing a novel while in the Air Force in the early ’50s, when a commanding officer gave him copies of J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye,” Thomas Wolfe’s “Of Time and the River” and James Jones’ “From Here to Eternity.”
“I read the books in close to one weekend and it was my only epiphany: a Jewish guy can have an epiphany,” he told The Believer in 2008. “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful to try something like that?’”
- by Republica
- by Associated Press
- by Republica