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Sidney Sheldon left an immortal imprint upon the world, and his passing in January at age 89 leaves us with the loss of an advocate of indomitable women.
Sheldon worked his way through four separate careers during his life, succeeding at all of them. His first three writing careers, Broadway theatre, movies, and television garnered him numerous awards.
Born in Chicago, February 17, 1917, his writing career started at the grand old age of 10 when he made his first sale. A piece of poetry purchased for $10.00 US. It was the beginning of what would turn out to be a long and extremely creative road. A man who survived the Depression by working a variety of jobs while attending Northwestern University, who then made it through WWII as a pilot in the US Army Air Force, he was not adverse to hard work and taking risks.
In 1934, Sheldon the teenager had big dreams and made his way to Hollywood to conquer the world of the big screen. He ended up as a prospective screenplay reader. Although not what he was looking for, the job earned him a steady weekly salary, gave him the foot in the door, and at night he began writing his own screenplays. Universal Studios bought South Of Panama for $250.00 US. He was in, but then WWII came along and took him back out again.
After the war, in New York, he set upon writing like a starving dog would a bone. He became a prolific stage play writer and, at one point, had three different musicals running on Broadway at the same time: The Merry Widow, Jackpot, and Dream With Music. His Broadway successes brought him full circle back to Hollywood where he picked up an Oscar in 1947: Best Original Screenplay for The Bachelor And The Bobby-Soxer. He soon moved on and became a producer working with MGM Studios, but within a few years the movie industry was being hard hit by television. As is often the case with extremely talented and gifted writers, Sheldon switched mediums and turned his eye to TV.
He produced The Patty Duke Show and wrote almost every episode for seven years. At the time, this was an accomplishment that no other producer had achieved. He then created and produced I Dream of Jeannie, a smashing television success that kept him in small-screen writing for another five years. But inside him were books dying to get out, and when the show ceased production in 1970, Sheldon turned his gift of writing to novels. As I Dream Of Jeannie was winding down, but still being produced, he took each morning to begin writing his first book: The Naked Face.
Initially the book bombed in hardcover format, but when the publisher converted it to paperback sales rocketed to over three million copies. Soon the world became very much aware of this prolific writer. Already under his belt were an Oscar, a Tony, and an Emmy; but he knew that he had finally found what he needed as a creative outlet: novels.
When most writers of the day were using typewriters, Sheldon preferred to dictate his stories and produced 50 or more pages daily that were then transcribed and handed back to him the next day for corrections. He would write in this manner until he had his first draft. He would then begin re-writing. Sometimes spending over a year performing 12 to 15 re-writes before he was finally satisfied with what he had created.
When asked why woman purchased so many of his books he explained that he enjoyed writing about capable, talented women who retained their femininity. He believed that femininity provides women with immense power.
His style of writing was reminiscent, and greatly influenced, by his years in television. He wrote cliff-hanging prose chapter-by-chapter that encouraged the reader to turn every page. Writing in this fashion was a Sheldon obsession and paramount in both his writing challenges and successes, which is why he became a steady frequenter of best-seller lists, often reigning on top for long periods of time.
His wife, Alexandra, and his daughter, author Mary Sheldon, survive him. Our collective condolences go out to the family. He was truly an admirable author.Bibliography:
The Naked Face (1970)
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