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‘Rebel Without A Cause’ screenwriter Stewart Stern dies at 92

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MUMBAI: Two-time Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and Emmy-winning television writer Stewart Stern (Rebel Without a Cause, The Last Movie, TV's Sybil) died on 2 February, at the Swedish Hospital in Seattle, Washington, at age 92 after a battle with cancer.

According to his family, he was “surrounded by the next generation of filmmakers and screenwriters he had mentored and inspired, as well as friends and family who came from all parts of the country for a two-week vigil before his death.”

Over the course of his career, Stern's screenwriting credits included the iconic '50s teen rebellion drama, Rebel Without a Cause as well as a related documentary feature on the late actor, The James Dean Story (1957), 1971's notorious counter-culture indie drama, The Last Movie, The Ugly American starring Marlon Brando, which earned him a Writers Guild Award nomination for Best Written American Drama, Rachel, Rachel starring Joanne Woodward, for which he earned an Oscar nomination (Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium) as well as a WGA nomination for Best Written American Drama.

His other screenwriting credits included Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams (1973), The Rack (1956, From a Teleplay by Rod Serling), The Outsider (1961), Thunder in the Sun (1959) and his debut feature film, Teresa, for which he earned his first Oscar nomination for Best Writing, Motion Picture Story, shared with Hayes. He also wrote the Oscar-winning short film, Benjy (1951).

“Stewart Stern lived so many lives! He was a great screenwriter, a tireless mentor, a WWII hero, an interlocutor with the primates at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle – and a man possessed of greater generosity of spirit than most anyone I've ever met. He had such access to his feelings, and in his presence you had the same. In so many conversations I can recall having with him I ended up near tears – not in sorrow, but in recognition of the truths he so wisely and gently shared. This is the saddest thing. He was 92 but should have been with us forever,” said WGAW vice president Howard A. Rodman.

On the small screen, Stern also wrote several telefilms, including the acclaimed 1976 miniseries Sybil (From the book by Flora Rheta Schreiber) starring Sally Field, which memorably explored multiple personality disorder, earning Stern an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Special Program – Drama or Comedy – Adaptation, as well as a lead actress Emmy Award for Field and the program (Outstanding Special – Drama or Comedy), as well as the holiday TV movie A Christmas to Remember (1978), which earned Stern a Writers Guild Award for Anthology Adaptation.

During the '50s, Stern also wrote several productions for TV drama anthologies such as Playhouse 90, Goodyear Playhouse and The Gulf Playhouse.

Born on March 22, 1922, Stern was raised in New York City. After graduating from the University of Iowa, he served in the U.S. Army during World War II in the 106th Infantry Division and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. For his military service, Stern received a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star, and Combat Infantry Badge. According to his family, Stern felt his writing "was always informed by that profound experience and the relations formed with his Army buddies."

A WGAW member since 1951, Stern served on the Guild's Screen Council Branch (1970-72). Stern is survived by his wife, Marilee Stiles Stern.

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