/ 14 November 2007

Novelist, playwright Ira Levin dead at 78

Ira Levin, the playwright and novelist who wrote Rosemary’s Baby, The Stepford Wives and The Boys From Brazil, has died at the age of 78, the New York Times reported on November 13.

Levin died on November 12 at his home in Manhattan, apparently of natural causes., the newspaper quoted his son Nicholas as saying.

Able to write a variety of genres, from mystery and horror to Broadway comedy, Levin sold tens of millions of books despite producing only seven novels in four decades, the Times quoted his agent Phyllis Westberg as saying.

Several of his works were given the Hollywood treatment, including perhaps most famously his supernatural 1967 novel Rosemary’s Baby.

The film version, directed by Roman Polanski in 1968, tells the story of a young bride involved in a group of Satanists who mysteriously falls pregnant.

His 1972 novel The Stepford Wives, made into a film in 1975, is a thriller about a group of housewives in a quaint Connecticut town being replaced by robots. It was remade in 2004 in a movie starring Nicole Kidman.

The Boys From Brazil, written in 1976 and adapted for the screen in 1978 spins a tale of a bizarre Nazi plot to resurrect Hitler and the Third Reich in South America in the late 1970s.

Levin was born in New York in 1929 and served in the United States army briefly in the early 1950s after leaving university. He went on to write for television before publishing his first novel, A Kiss Before Dying, in 1953.

The book won Levin the best first novel from the Mystery Writers of America and was twice adapted for screen.

He also wrote for the theatre, notably adapting a novel by Mac Hyman into the 1955 Broadway comedy hit No Time for Sergeants, and penning comic thriller Deathtrap, in 1979, which ran on Broadway before also being made into a film.

According to the New York Times, Levin was unhappy with the legacy of popular Satanism that followed the release of Rosemary’s Baby.

”I feel guilty that Rosemary’s Baby led to The Exorcist, The Omen,” it quoted him as telling the the Los Angeles Times in 2002.

”A whole generation has been exposed, has more belief in Satan.

”I don’t believe in Satan. And I feel that the strong fundamentalism we have would not be as strong if there hadn’t been so many of these books.”

”Of course,” he reportedly added, ”I didn’t send back any of the royalty checks.” – AFP