Zalman King: Writer and producer of '91/2 Weeks'

 

Zalman King's stylish erotica includes the TV-friendly Red Shoe Diaries, introduced by a pre-X-Files David Duchovny, and 91/2 Weeks but he began his career as a dramatic actor and continued to make occasional forays into non-erotic cinema. Zalman Lefkowitz changed his name when he began acting, starting as a gang member in Harland Ellison's autobiographical "Memo from Purgatory" (1964), an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

Other one-off roles ranged from "Man with the beard" in a 1965 episode of The Munsters to the lead in "Muley", a 1967 episode of Gunsmoke, one of several different characters he played in the series. From 1969-71 he played Aaron Silverman in The Young Lawyers, about a Boston law firm that works for poor citizens, and was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor.

From then on, King often starred, though never in a major feature. Lo B'Yom V'Lo B'Layla ["Neither By Day Nor By Night", 1972) despite its Hebrew title, was made in English. King plays an American in the Israeli army who is wounded and shares a hospital room with a blind woman who mistakes him for her long-lost lover, while he, increasingly embittered, rejects his father (Edward G Robinson). Some Call It Loving (1973) is an updated Sleeping Beauty, and Trip with the Teacher (1975) a basic exploitationer, while The Passover Plot (1976) is a ludicrous conspiracy thriller showing Jesus faking his own death to kick-start Christianity.

A change came when King wrote and produced 91/2 Weeks (1986), though it was directed by the 1980s style-merchant Adrian Lyne. Starring Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger, its food-sex-in-the-fridge scene was frequently parodied. It was also nominated for a Razzie for Worst Screenplay, though it stood little chance against the winner, Howard: a New Breed of Hero.

Nevertheless he had found his forte, and moved into projects featuring lubricious young actresses in barely credible stories that necessitated regular disrobing. The business became a family affair, with King's wife and two daughters working behind the scenes.

Two Moon Junction (1988) follows a Southern debutante slumming with a drifter, and gained another Razzie nomination. Wild Orchids (1989), starring Rourke and Jacqueline Bissett, is little more than a disconnected series of erotic encounters. In true exploitation style, Wild Orchids 2: Two Shades of Blue (1991) traded on the name while having nothing whatsoever to do with the original.

King perfected the form in Red Shoes Diaries, eight plot-light TV series (1992-97), several direct-to-video features and a TV movie. Duchovny introduced each episode as a man whose fiancée committed suicide and who hopes to learn why through a personal ad asking women to write to him about their erotic experiences. It featured a surprising number of more or less serious actors: Bond girl Maryam d'Abo, The Breakfast Club's Ally Sheedy, Matt LeBlanc, later of Friends, stand-up Margaret Cho, alternative film stalwart Udo Kier, and model-turned-actress Joan Severance, while Sheryl Lee sandwiched her appearance between the television and cinema incarnations of David Lynch's Twin Peaks. It also supplied a pool of talent for his feature films. But neither ChromiumBlue.com nor Body Language could replicate its success.

Lake Consequence (1993), starring Billy Zane and Severance, showed that sexual repression can be overcome by infidelity and al fresco ménages-a-trois. In 1995 King found inspiration in the erotic diaries of Anaïs Nin and based Delta of Venus on selected episodes.

There was a different side to King: he produced two of Alan Rudolph's lesser films: Roadie (1980), a musical sex comedy starring Meat Loaf, and Endangered Species (1982) a sci-fi about mysterious cattle mutilation. Perhaps the ubiquity of harder sex on the internet took the rug from under King's gentle, almost romantic style. Female Perversions (1996), starring Tilda Swinton, apparently has ambitions as a feminist statement, albeit about a kleptomaniac and a lesbian and displaying the requisite acreage of flesh.

A friend of the Nouvelle Vague director Agnes Varda, he appeared in her autobiographical The Beaches of Agnes (2008); Crazy Again (2006) is a documentary about the mental health problems suffered by the country and western star Dale Watson.

John Riley

Zalman Lefkovitz (Zalman King), actor, writer, director and producer: born Trenton, New Jersey 23 May 1941; married 1965 Patricia Lousianna Knop (two daughters); died Los Angeles 3 February 2012.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
Danielle George is both science professor and presenter
people
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015