Saturday, October 9, 2010

RIP William W. Norton

Screenwriter William Wallace Norton died on October 1, 2010 of a heart attack in Santa Barbara, California. Wallace was born on September 9, 1924 into a family of Mormon pioneers in Ogden, Utah. He was a life-long writer and political activist. After serving in combat during World War II, he worked in construction and was a State Park ranger in California. His early writings were for the small literary magazines such as California Quarterly, as well as plays for little theater in Los Angeles during the 1950s and 60s. His membership in the Communist Party and participation in the early progressive political movements of the 50's resulted in being called before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Norton's film writing career began with the Burt Lancaster movie "The Scalphunters". His screenwriting continued through the 70s and 80s, along with active involvement in Central American liberation theology movements. Focusing his concerns for peace and justice towards the struggles in Northern Ireland in the 80s, both Bill and his wife Eleanor were arrested for attempting to contribute arms to this cause. They spent two years in a French prison, and a year of refuge in Nicaragua and in Cuba. They returned to Los Angeles in the early ‘90s, where they both continued to write. Wallace was the screenwriter for such films as “McQ” starring John Wayne, “Sam Whiskey”, “Gator” and White Lightning” all starring Burt Reynolds, “Big Bad Mama” starring Angie Dickinson and several episodes of the “The Big Valley” TV series. Wallace also was a co-writer on the Euro-western “The Hunting Party” (1971) starring Oliver Reed and Gene Hackman.

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