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January 31, 2007

Prolific Writer Sidney Sheldon Dies

I Dream of Jeannie producer and best-selling novelist set Guinness record as "Most Translated Author" in the world

Rancho Mirage, CA - Sidney Sheldon, a prolific writer whose career included award-winning work as a Broadway playwright, screenwriter, television writer-producer and novelist, died Tuesday of complications from pneumonia at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif. He was 89.

Although Sheldon did not turn to fiction writing until the age 50, it was as a novelist that he earned his greatest fame thanks to such best-sellers as Rage of Angels, The Other Side of Midnight, Master of the Game and If Tomorrow Comes. His shrewdly plotted page-turners frequently centered on strong women who overcome obstacles in a world dominated by unscrupulous men.

An Associated Press report recalled a 1982 in which Sheldon explained his storytelling ethos: “I try to write my books so the reader can’t put them down. I try to construct them so when the reader gets to the end of a chapter, he or she has to read just one more chapter. It’s the technique of the old Saturday afternoon serial: leave the guy hanging on the edge of the cliff at the end of the chapter.”

In all, Sheldon published 18 novels and sold 300 million copies. He earned a Guinness Book of World Records distinction as “the world's most translated author” as a result of being translated into 71 languages in 180 countries.

Chicago Native Finds Breaks in Hollywood,
New York and Hollywood Again


Born Sidney Schechtel on February 11, 1917, in Chicago, Sheldon attended Northwestern University. He then moved to Los Angeles, where he began his writing career as a script reader for the Hollywood studios, which led to work on various B movies.

After service as a pilot during World War II he moved to New York, where began writing musicals for the Broadway stage while continuing to write screenplays for both MGM and Paramount Pictures. At one point he had three musicals on Broadway: The Merry Widow, Jackpot and Dream with Music.

His Broadway success led him back to Hollywood, and in 1948 he won an Academy Award for his screenplay for the film The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer, which starred Cary Grant and Myrna Loy. His other feature films include Easter Parade, Annie Get Your Gun and Jumbo.

With the rise of television Sheldon turned his attention to the burgeoning medium and continued to flourish with The Patty Duke Show, followed by I Dream of Jeannie, which he created, and for which he wrote numerous episodes. In 1967 he won a Primetime Emmy for his writing on the show.

He also wrote for the series Nancy and Hart to Hart, the latter of which he also created. In addition, several of his novels were adapted as television miniseries, which he frequently produced.

In 2005, Sheldon published the memoir The Other Side of Me, which gave readers a window into the lives of such stars as Grant and Garland.

Sheldon was married for more than 30 years to actress Jorja Curtright Sheldon, who died in 1985. In 1989 he married advertising executive Alexandra Kostoff, who survives him. He is also survived by a daughter, Mary, and a brother, Richard.

The Archive of American Television on Sidney Sheldon

On March 30, 200, the Archive of American Television interviewed Sidney Sheldon in Beverly Hills. The two-and-a-half hour videotaped conversation includes Sheldon’s reflections on his early years in Hollywood as a screenwriter, his creation of The Patty Duke Show, and great memories of working with the show’s young star.

Plus, he recalled how, during his run as writer-producer of Patty Duke, Screen Gems approached him about producing another comedy for them, which eventually became I Dream of Jeannie. Sheldon talked of how he created the concept for the show and assembled his production staff, including director Hal Cooper. He spoke fondly of stars Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman and how the crew created Jeannie's many special effects.

He also shared memories of the “navel controversy” that brewed during that time over not revealing Eden’s belly button—and the attempt by the stars of Laugh-In to circumvent that rule. Sheldon also described the effort to hide Eden’s pregnancy in the first season.

After recalling his production work with Aaron Spelling during the 1970s, Sheldon discussed his about-face from television writer to novelist. He delighted at the success that he achieved with his best-selling books, many of which became successful television productions.

The complete interview is available for viewing at the AAT office, located on the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences plaza in North Hollywood. Contact the Television Archive at (818) 754-2800 for more information.

To learn more about the life and works of Sidney Sheldon online, please visit
the Archive of American Television Update blog.

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