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Edmund H. North; Shared Oscar for 'Patton' Screenplay

August 30, 1990|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Edmund H. North, the prolific and versatile screenwriter who shared an Academy Award for the 1970 film "Patton," has died. He was 79.

North died Tuesday in St. John's Medical Center in Santa Monica of complications after surgery for an undisclosed problem.

Best known among his more than 30 screenplays, other than "Patton," were "The Day the Earth Stood Still," a 1951 science fiction film that became a prototype for the genre; "Cowboy," a 1958 Western; "Sink the Bismarck!" a 1960 war film, and "Damn the Defiant," a 1962 historical romance.

"There are no words that could be written to describe this man and his contributions to his art, his community and his guild," said George Kirgo, president of the Writers Guild West. "For over 50 years he has been a constant and steadying presence. No matter how divisive the controversy, the room would quiet to hear the words of Ed North."

North, active in the guild throughout his career, served as president of its Screen Branch in 1956 and 1957, president of its Pension Fund in 1964, and chair of its negotiating committee several times. He served on more than 40 guild committees.

Born March 12, 1911, in New York, North spent his first five years traveling with his vaudevillian parents, Robert (Bobbie) North and Stella Maury. He began writing plays as a pupil at Culver Military Academy in Indiana.

After two years at Stanford University, and a brief residency in Paris, North achieved early success in 1934 with his first screenplay, "One Night of Love."

North's anti-war sentiments were interwoven in his screenplays throughout his long career, including the pacifist alien's warnings to Earth in "The Day the Earth Stood Still," the 1982 film "Race to Oblivion," which he wrote and co-produced with Robert Churchill for the Physicians for Social Responsibility, and even in "Patton."

"I hope those who see the picture will agree with me," he said in accepting the Oscar for "Patton" along with co-writer Francis Ford Coppola, "that it is not only a war picture, but a peace picture as well."

An ambitious story about the World War II career of Gen. George S. Patton Jr., the film was highly praised by critics and the public.

A writer for Films in Review applauded the script by North and Coppola for "alternating, in a dramatically correct rhythm, between the psychology of the man and the war tumult he loved."

North is survived by his wife, Collette, two daughters, Bobbie North and Susan North Meadow, and two grandchildren.

The family has asked that memorial contributions be made to Amnesty International, the Christic Institute in Washington, or to a donor's favorite charity.

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