February 11, 1917 - January 30, 2007
Sidney Sheldon (born Sidney Schechtel) was a prolific American writer, who made a brilliant career as a screenwriter in cinema and television, earning an Oscar, and – after the age 50 – a career of a bestselling novelist with over 300 million copies sold in nearly 100 countries of the world and translated into almost 60 languages.
Sidney Sheldon – Better Late Than Never
Sidney Sheldon was born Sidney Schechtel in Chicago, Illinois, to the family of Ascher Schechtel and Natalie Marcus, who escaped to America from a little village near Odessa, then Russian Empire (now Ukraine) because of the widespread pogroms.
Few well known writers started their professional careers as early as Sidney, who sold his first work, a poem, when he was just 10 years old for $5, a considerable sum for a young boy at the time! During the Great Depression, he tried a variety of odd jobs. And after graduating from his high school, he went to the Northwestern University, where he would supply drama groups with his plays.
He went to Hollywood in 1937 to gain the fame of a screenplay writer, and, unlike thousands of other hopefuls, succeeded: a string of B-movies he worked on was followed by The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947), which brought him an Oscar for Best original screenplay! After several A-movies and musicals he, in need of additional money and witnessing the birth of television, decided to try his luck in this new medium. Again, he succeeded at once...
He created the screenplay for The Patty Duke Show TV series (1963-66), and for the next several years would be the only screenwriter to work on the series, not missing a single series all this time! Also, he wrote most screenplays for another popular series of the time, I Dream of Jeannie (1965-70)
But after the end of the series, Sidney decided to try himself in fiction. Unsurprisingly, he succeeded again... His very first novel, The Naked Face (1970), was lauded by the critics and brought him the Edgar Allan Poe Award. It was followed by the bestsellers The Other Side of Midnight (1973), A Stranger in the Mirror (1976), Bloodline (1977), Rage of Angels (1980) and Master of the Game (1982).
He explained his gift to deeply feel the drama by having Russian roots and soul, and the quality of his writing - by spending about one year per each of the novels, and always taking time to review the texts and rewrite whatever was not perfectly matching his view of the story.
In his personal life, he was a man of contrasts and a constant change - possibly due to his bipolar disorder that was diagnosed when he was only a boy, and that at 17 made him think about suicide... His first marriage, to Jane Harding, lasted only 10 months. But the second marriage, to Jorja Cutwright, lasted 30 years! Jorja gave him daughter Mary, who herself would later become an established writer. In 1989 he married Alexandra Kostoff and lived with her until the very end...
Sheldon died from pneumonia at Eisenhower Medical Center in California on January 30, 2007, just 12 days before his 90th birthday.
"Mr. Blockbuster", The Los Angeles Times, September 25, 2004
Sheldon, Sidney, The Other Side of Me, Warner Vision Books, 2005
<< back <<