Thursday, August 9, 2007

Melville Shavelson dies at 90

Variety reports that writer-producer-director Melville "Mel" Shavelson died Wednesday of natural causes at his home in Studio City. He was 90.

Houdini buffs will best remember Shavelson as the force behind the 1976 ABC TV-movie The Great Houdinis, starring Paul Michael Glaser and Sally Struthers. Shavelson wrote, directed, and produced the 2-hour tele-film. He also penned the novelization.

For my money, Shavelson’s The Great Houdinis is probably the best of all the films made about Houdini. While at the time the movie seemed to be steamy collection of fictionalization, over the years many of the themes and incidents portrayed in the film have been revealed to be fact; such as Houdini’s affair with Daisy White and Bess Houdini’s alcoholism.

Shavelson’s film career saw him work with many famous faces, including Jimmy Cagney and Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant and Sophia Loren. Shavelson directed Cast a Giant Shadow, starring Kirk Douglas and Yours, Mine and Ours, starring Lucille Ball. His 1956 film, The Seven Little Foys, and his 1958 romantic comedy Houseboat were both nominated for Oscars.

Shavelson also served three terms as president of the Writers Guild of America, West.

Recently, Shavelson served on the faculty of USC's Master of Professional Writing Program; he funded a special closed-circuit television network for the Motion Picture and Television Fund Home in California; he established a film scholarship fund at Cornell U. (his alma mater); and he was acclaimed for his contributions to the Shavelson-Webb Writers Guild Foundation Library.

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