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Obituaries

Philip Yordan, 88; Writer Served as a 'Front' During Blacklist

April 03, 2003|Claudia Luther | Times Staff Writer

Yordan said he was brought in to save the movie when the star, Joan Crawford, threatened to bolt the set because she didn't like the script that was already filming. Yordan told writer Hank Rosenfeld in 2000 that he asked Crawford what it would take to make her happy.

"She said, 'I want to have a shootout with [co-star] Mercedes McCambridge and kill her,' " Yordan said. "So I said, 'You got it.' "

As a producer, Yordan was "a very mysterious operator who was protean in his ability to get a number of films going at one time, seemingly with a small army of invisible collaborators that he was paying to churn out his ideas," McGilligan wrote.

"During his prime, that was the deal: He took the credit," McGilligan told The Times this week. "But toward the end he willingly retracted or gave credit, especially to writers who were still alive."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday April 04, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 38 words Type of Material: Correction
Film release date -- An obituary of writer-producer Philip Yordan in the California section Thursday gave the wrong release date for the film "The Day of the Triffids." The movie was released in 1963, not 1953 as reported.

Gordon said that though some writers did feel exploited by Yordan, he also was well-liked.

"He had a way of not putting himself above the writer and of being not so much friendly as equal and decent and regular with people," Gordon said.

Yordan, who was born April 1, 1914, to a Polish immigrant family, earned a bachelor's degree at the University of Illinois and a law degree at Kent College of Law in Chicago.

He began his writing career in the 1930s working for director William Dieterlie; he became known as a great pitchman of story ideas and a script doctor before moving on to producing.

Yordan, who was married four times, is survived by his wife of 39 years, Faith, of San Diego, five children and six grandchildren.

David Thomson said he included an entry on Yordan in his New Biographical Dictionary of Film (2002) "as a buoy to mark an area of whirlpool, crosscurrents, rocks and wrecks" in Hollywood.

"Hardly a credit stands clear of dispute or doubt," Thomson writes of Yordan. "He could have written nothing, or everything. The truth will never be known."

In any case, Thomson concludes, reading through the list of films that Yordan claimed to either write, produce or both, "it would be hard not to see a pattern of tough loners, dangerous situations, laconic women and doomy finishes. In short, it sounds like movies."

Yordan himself said that although he was not interested in social content, "you'll find it in many of my pictures."

"It's a theme of loneliness of the common man," he said. "But he has an inner resource that enables him to survive in society. He doesn't cry, he doesn't beg, he doesn't ask favors. He lives and dies in dignity."

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