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Author and
screenwriter Gavin Lambert dead at 80

Author and
screenwriter Gavin Lambert dead at 80

Gavin Lambert, the openly gay screenwriter and novelist who became an insightful chronicler of Hollywood in such works as his novel and screenplay Inside Daily Clover as well as his books On Cukor, Norma Shearer: A Life, and Natalie Wood: A Life in Seven Takes, died Sunday of pulmonary fibrosis at Barlow Respiratory Hospital in Los Angeles. He was 80. The British writer, who became a U.S. citizen in 1964, was twice nominated for awards by both the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Writers Guild of America: for the 1960 screen adaptation of D.H. Lawrence's Sons and Lovers, which he wrote with T.E.B. Clarke, and 1977's adaptation of the I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, which he wrote with Lewis John Carlino. "He was one of the brightest, wittiest people I have ever known," recalled playwright Mart Crowley (The Boys in the Band), a longtime friend. "I was never bored with him." Born in Sussex, England, on July 23, 1924, Lambert attended Cheltenham College and Magdalen College, Oxford, where he became friends with aspiring filmmakers Karel Reisz and Lindsay Anderson, with whom he cofounded and coedited the groundbreaking film journal Sequence in 1947. In the '50s, along with director Tony Richardson, Lambert and his circle spearheaded Britain's Free Cinema movement, calling for more social realism in films by focusing on "the importance of people and the significance of the everyday." Their manifesto anticipated the French New Wave of filmmaking and also brought the spirit of England's "angry young men" group of playwrights to the screen. From 1949 to 1955, Lambert edited the film journal Sight and Sound before writing his first film Another Sky, the tale of an Englishwoman in North Africa, which was the one film he directed. In 1961, Lambert wrote the screen adaptation, along with Jan Read, of Tennessee Williams's The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, which starred Vivien Leigh and Warren Beatty. He penned another Williams adaptation in 1989, the TV version of Sweet Bird of Youth, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Mark Harmon. Lambert came to Los Angeles in 1954 to work as an assistant to director Nicholas Ray, on whose film Bigger Than Life he did some uncredited writing. He demonstrated his flair for capturing the inner workings of Hollywood with his 1963 novel Inside Daisy Clover, which was filmed by Robert Mulligan in 1965. The film starred Natalie Wood as a teenager who becomes an overnight star--Wood and Lambert became lifelong friends--and broke sexual ground, however tentatively, with Robert Redford's portrait of a bisexual movie star. Although Lambert continued to work as a screenwriter--most notably with Anthony Page's 1977 feature I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, starring Kathleen Quinlan as an institutionalized teenager struggling with mental problems--his focus increasingly turned to novels and books about major Hollywood figures. His fiction included 1960's The Slide Area: Scenes of Hollywood Life and 1971's The Goodbye People. His 1973 book On Cukor offered an extensive interview with gay director George Cukor. Lambert also appeared in the 2000 documentary of the same name, directed by Robert Trachtenberg. Lambert's other Hollywood-set nonfiction books include GWTW: The Making of "Gone With the Wind";Norma Shearer: A Life;Nazimova: A Biography, an account of the silent screen star, which earned him the William K. Everson Film History Award from the National Board of Review; and Mainly About Lindsay Anderson, a biography-memoir in which he discussed his and Anderson's differing approaches to their homosexuality, which Lambert accepted much more easily than Anderson. His final books included 2002's Natalie Wood: A Life in Seven Takes and 2004's The Ivan Moffat File: Life Among the Beautiful and Damned in London, Paris, New York and Hollywood. In addition to a wide circle of friends, Lambert is survived by his brother, Denys M. Lambert, who lives in England; a niece, Veronica; and a nephew, Stephen. At Lambert's request, no formal services are planned, and his ashes will be scattered in the Pacific Ocean by the Neptune Society. (Gregg Kilday, via Reuters)

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