The Orange County Screenwriters Association
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    Frank Pierson

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    One of the more frustrating aspects of scriptwriting is that rarely are writers as celebrated as in other fields like novels or plays. And actors, directors - even producers get mch more press.

    Case in point: Frank Pierson.

    If you don’t who he is, that’s typical. But when I list his films you’ll be amazed.

    Pierson was a New Yorker born and raised. Chapp - a - qua to be exact. Both Pierson’s mother and father were writers so Pierson’s path was set.

    After an a stint in the army during World War II Pierson started selling teleplays in New York city but soon moved to Hollywood.

    His initial attempts at writing for TV failed so he became a script editor on the show “Have Gun Will Travel” starring...Richard Boone, and did manage to get some of his work produced for that show.

    Success continued as he wrote for such shows as “Naked City” Dr. Kildare, Route 66 and others.

    But it was in film that Pierson really made his mark.

    His first feature, “Cat Ballou” a hilarious 1965 satire of the Old West starring Jane Fonda and Lee Marvin announced Pierson’s massive skills to the world. It was nominated for several Academy Awards, including the screenplay that Pierson adapted from the book, and it truly began Pierson’s rise to writing fame.

    Cat was followed in close order by a legion of incredible films.

    And this is what frustrates me - not even I knew he had written all these amazing movies.


    Beside Cat Ballou there was Dog Day Afternoon, The Happening, Cool Hand Luke, The Anderson Tapes, A Star is Born (for which he both wrote and directed) and Presumed Innocent.


    Dog Day won Pierson a best screenplay Oscar.

    Cool Hand Luke, also nominated for multiple Academy Awards has one of the most quoted lines from any movie or TV show.

    “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”

    And the character of Luke is named the AFI’s 30th greatest hero.

    In addition to his film work, Pierson was active in many Hollywood organizations. This is directly from Wikipedia:


    Pierson was President of the Writers Guild of America, West (WGAW) from 1981 to 1983 and again from 1993 to 1995 and was President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) from 2001 to 2005. In 2003, Pierson was the recipient of the Austin Film Festival's Distinguished Screenwriter Award. He was also member of the founding staff of Sundance Institute, and Artistic Director of the American Film Institute. (AFI.)

    Pierson also had producing credits and 19 director credits for his work from 1962 to 2006 including the Showtime hit “The L Word” and consulting producing credit for The Good Wife and MadMen.

    That’s 5 decades of superb and award-winning film and TV work.

    Frank Pierson was 87 when he died in 2012 leaving behind some of Hollywood’s most beloved films.

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