Saturday 25 February 1995
The book was taken up by the Actors' Studio, who improvised a play from it - which so impressed those who saw it that it was presented on Broadway. Sam Spiegel, fresh from On the Waterfront and in the midst of producing The Bridge on the River Kwai, saw it and assigned Willingham to write the screenplay. Jack Garfein directed, using most of the Broadway cast, it then being considered that audiences would accept non-star casts, provided that the subject was treated realistically. In the US the film was called The Strange One, but in Britain it reverted to its original title.
There have since been other films equally indignant about these institutions - Taps (1981), The Lords of Discipline (1983) - but none quite as acrid as this, with Jocko (Ben Gazzara) revelling in the admiration of a fellow-student or embarking on his nefarious pursuits in his "lights- out" outfit of cap, Hawaiian shirt, black shorts and black silk socks and garters.
Although Willingham was to publish 10 novels in all, none of them made much impact in Britain but they were in any case overshadowed by some outstandingly successful screenplays. Kirk Douglas employed him on an original screenplay, The Vikings (1958), and then on Paths of Glory (1959), in collaboration with Stanley Kubrick (who directed) and Jim Thompson, from Humphrey Cobb's novel about the French unit which mutinied in the First World War. Kubrick used him again on a fine, unusual western - with, again, intimations of sadism - One Eyed Jacks (1961), working with Guy Trosper, but eventually directed by its star and (uncredited) producer, Marlon Brando, who took over from Kubrick.
Writing with Buck Henry, Willingham had his greatest commercial success with The Graduate (1967), directed by Mike Nichols, from Charles Webb's novel, in which Mrs Robinson (Anne Bancroft) seduced young Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman). Although the film has its dark side it is, along with The Vikings, furthest from Willingham's own brooding novels. He also wrote the screenplay of Arthur Penn's Little Big Man (1970), from Thomas Berger's novel, with Hoffman as the aged westerner reminiscing about his past with such types as General Custer and Wild Bill Hickok.
With one exception, Thieves Like Us (1974) is closest to Willingham's novels: a gritty tale of criminals in the Deep South during the Depression, which he wrote with Joan Tewkesbury and Robert Altman, from the book by Edward Anderson, earlier filmed as They Live By Night.
The exception is Rambling Rose (1991), for the evident reason that he was adapting his own novel (published in 1973), a comic, sour-sweet look at life in rural Georgia during the Depression, as exemplified by Rose, whose creed, "Girls don't want sex, they want love", she innocently but spectacularly overturns. Martha Coolidge directed, after five years trying to get backing, with Laura Dern as Rose, Dianne Ladd (her own mother) and Robert Duvall as the couple who take her in, and Lukas Haas as their son, understandably bewitched by her.
Calder Willingham, novelist, screenwriter: born Atlanta, Georgia 22 December 1922; married (four sons, two daughters); died Laconia, New Hampshire 19 February 1995.
- 1 Germanwings crash: Captain of doomed plane was only 'on board because he changed job to spend more time with his children'
- 2 Ohio Democrat Teresa Fedor speaks out during abortion debate to reveal she has been raped – and is interrupted by laughter from Republicans
- 3 Gamers confess the worst things they've done in The Sims
- 4 Germanwings crash: 'Andreas Lubitz planned to marry pregnant girlfriend', claims German report
- 5 Germanwings plane crash: Transcript reveals passengers 'screamed for over five minutes' before plane crashed into mountain
Germanwings crash: Captain of doomed plane was only 'on board because he changed job to spend more time with his children'
Ohio Democrat Teresa Fedor speaks out during abortion debate to reveal she has been raped – and is interrupted by laughter from Republicans
Jeremy Clarkson 'could be given minder' ahead of a potential Top Gear return
The male and female faces thought to be the epitome of beauty, according to British people
Germanwings plane crash: Transcript reveals passengers 'screamed for over five minutes' before plane crashed into mountain
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans
£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...
£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...
£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...
£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...