Award-winning writer Horton Foote dead at 92

Thu Mar 5, 2009 8:12am EST
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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Horton Foote, whose plays and scripts about the longing and struggles of small-town life won him two Academy Awards, an Emmy and a Pulitzer Prize, has died at the age of 92.

Foote, whose best-known works included the Oscar-winning scripts for "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Tender Mercies," died on Wednesday in Hartford, Connecticut, after a brief illness, his daughter, actress Hallie Foote, told the New York Times.

Many of Foote's tales were set in the fictional town of Harrison, which was based on his hometown of Wharton, Texas, a farming community about 50 miles southwest of Houston.

Foote's works brimmed with influences and observations from Wharton and one admirer said the writer was to Texas what John Steinbeck was to California and Woody Allen is to New York.

"My brother never understood why I preferred to sit and listen to the stories of my great-aunts rather than play baseball," Foote once told Reuters. "I can still hear those voices."

Those voices kept him writing into his 90s and he told another interviewer, "I don't think I would ever get much writing done if I lived full time in Wharton. I'd be too busy listening to people."

Foote, who was born March 14, 1916, was a teenager when he left Wharton first for California and then New York with the intention of becoming an actor.

He joined a theater group in New York and came to the attention of legendary choreographer Agnes de Mille, who was so impressed by the 25-year-old Foote's vivid portrayal of Wharton during an improvisation that she urged him to write about it.

The result was a "Wharton Dance," a one-act play -- and the realization that Foote could ensure himself of good roles if he wrote them himself.   Continued...

<p>Actors Gregory Peck (C) and Robert Duvall (L) pose with screenwriter Horton Foote February 2 in Beverly Hills as they arrive for a screening of their 1962 film "To Kill A Mockingbird" in this undated file photo. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>