Gore Vidal, author, screenwriter, essayist, actor and political candidate has died at the age of 86. Reports are that he was suffering from complications involving pneumonia. The son of a military officer, born in the Cadet hospital at West Point, he actually added Gore as a middle name. Later he dropped the first two names from his then full name of Eugene Luthor Gore Vidal to give him a “sharp, distinctive” name.
He was the first novelist to write a successful, dispassionate portrayal of homosexuality in American literature, The City and the Pillar. It was dedicated to “JT” whom Vidal later revealed was his male “love” from his early days, the one that Vidal later said was the only person he’d ever truly loved.
His success with novels and plays soon led to Hollywood. He signed a contract as a screenwriter with MGM and did script doctoring on Ben-Hur, although he lost a battle to be credited for his work on the project. His novel “Myra Breckenridge” became a film that is now regarded as one of the worst films ever made. It did feature the big-screen debut of Tom Selleck, in a small role as a “stud”.
He wrote the original screenplay for Caligula but sought to remove his name from the project after his version was heavily re-written. Producers later tried to restore some of Vidal’s vision into the project in post-production, but the result was flawed.
He penned the script for Is Paris Burning, a strong film about the liberation of Occupied Paris during WWII by the French Resistance and Free French Forces. He adapted the critically acclaimed novel “Dress Gray” (written by Lucien Truscott IV) for television. And he did some un-credited work on The Sicilian, the film adaptation of Mario Puzo’s novel.
Vidal also found time to work in front of the camera. He had roles in Gattaca, Igby Goes Down, Shadow Conspiracy, With Honors and Bob Roberts.