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Deborah Kerr’s Husband, Writer Peter Viertel Dies

White_hunter_dvd_2In one of those strange-but-true stories, writer Peter Viertel has died, only a few weeks after his wife, film legend Deborah Kerr passed away. They had been married since 1960.

Although better known as a novelist (and as the author of the name-dropping Hollywood memoir Dangerous Friends: At Large With Huston and Hemingway in the 50’s, Viertel made some memorable contributions to classic Hollywood movies. He wrote the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock’s Saboteur He also got work out of his friendships with Ernest Hemingway and John Huston. He wrote the screenplays for The Sun Also Rises (the 1957 version), and The Old Man and the Sea. And he was part of the Huston coterie who worked (uncredited) on Beat the Devil and The African Queen. His experiences with Huston in Africa for Queen were the basis for his roman a clef White Hunter Black Heart, which Pauline Kael called "the best Hollywood novel I’ve ever come across." Clint Eastwood made a film of it in 1990 in which he also played a barely-disguised John Huston.

A character modelled on Viertel was played in that film by Jeff Fahey, but he wasn’t the biggest star to portray the writer. 

Viertel was also played on screen by Robert Redford, according to longstanding rumors: the characters played by Redford and Barbara Streisand in The Way We Were (1973) were allegedly based on Viertel and his first wife. You can listen to Viertel talking about his life and times in this 1992 interview with filmmaker Bob Swaim.

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