Horton Foote
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NEW YORK (AP) — Playwright and screenwriter Horton Foote, who movingly portrayed the broken dreams of common people in "The Trip to Bountiful," ''Tender Mercies" and his Oscar-winning screen adaptation of "To Kill a Mockingbird," died Wednesday in Connecticut, Paul Marte, a spokesman for Hartford Stage, said. He was 92.

Foote died in his sleep in his apartment in Hartford where he was preparing work on "The Orphans' Home Cycle," a collection of nine plays, for next September at the nonprofit theater, Marte said.

Foote left the cotton fields of his native Wharton, Texas, as a teenager, dreaming of becoming an actor. But realizing his gifts as a storyteller, he embarked on a writing career that spanned more than half a century and earned him two Academy Awards ("To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Tender Mercies") and a 1995 Pulitzer Prize for "The Young Man From Atlanta."

Foote was active in the theater until the end of life. His play, "Dividing the Estate," the comic tale of a Texas family squabbling over an inheritance, was presented on Broadway this season by Lincoln Center Theater.

"He created so many unforgettable characters in so many indelible stories for the stage and screen that lifted our hearts and souls and gave such vivid expression as to what it means to be human," said Hartford Stage artistic director Michael Wilson, who directed many of Foote's plays including "Dividing the Estate."

The stories and lives of the people Foote loved in Texas became the bedrock for many of his plays, with the fictional Harrison, Texas, standing in for Wharton. Dividing his time mostly between Texas and New York, he kept the Wharton home in which he had grown up and did much of his writing there.

"I picked a difficult subject, a little lost Texas town no one's heard of or cares about," Foote told The New York Times in 1995. "But I'm at the mercy of what I write. The subject matter has taken me over."

Never one for urbane and trendy topics, Foote instead focused on ordinary people and how their nostalgic recollections would mislead them.

"My first memory was of stories about the past — a past that, according to the storytellers, was superior in every way to the life then being lived," Foote wrote in 1988. "It didn't take me long, however, to understand that the present was all we had, for the past was gone and nothing could be done about it."

Parents and children are treated with an even touch. While many playwrights in the 1970s and 1980s turned to the evening news and wrote issue-oriented dramas, Foote stuck with everyday people dealing with problems of the heart: children without fathers, parents without children, career failures and redemption through love.

Through all his plays there is a search for home, something at which Foote himself winced.

"I'm often told that I'm trying to define the meaning of home — not in a sentimental way, but in a kind of a deep, primitive way, which of course is very subjective, and often I don't think definable," Foote once said.

Foote's women and men are strong-willed but fallible. The elderly Mrs. Watts in "The Trip to Bountiful" flees the crowded Houston apartment she shares with her son and bossy daughter-in-law for a last look at her childhood home. Mac Sledge, the fallen country star in "Tender Mercies," finds himself in a Vietnam War widow's motor court after waking from a drunken slumber.

Foote was nearly 80 when he won the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for his drama "The Young Man From Atlanta," about a Houston suburban couple in the 1950s trying to understand their son's mysterious death.

"I'm rejoicing," Foote said from Wharton after the prize was announced. "I had no idea when I was starting out this year that something like that would happen."

The Associated Press, reviewing the 1997 Broadway production, called it "a beautiful play, a melancholy chamber piece about loss that unfolds slowly and quietly, carefully building until it finally touches the heart."

In 1997, he won an Emmy for best writing for a TV miniseries or special for the CBS movie "Old Man," based on a novella by William Faulkner.

Many viewers knew Foote best for his first film credit, the screen adaptation of "To Kill a Mockingbird," Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about childhood and racial injustice in a Depression-era Alabama town.

"I knew little about adapting or writing for the screen," Foote later wrote. But the 1962 film won Oscars for star Gregory Peck as lawyer Atticus Finch, and for art direction as well as for Foote.

"It's a wonderful adaptation," former child actress Mary Badham, who played Peck's young daughter, Scout, in the film, said in a 2005 AP interview. "Harper Lee and Horton Foote were so together on this. Horton was from the South and from that era. He knew the sights, the sounds, the smells of the whole thing and he loved the book."

In 1963, Foote adapted his own play "The Traveling Lady" to film. "Baby, the Rain Must Fall," as the film version was called, starred Steve McQueen and Lee Remick and was directed by "Mockingbird" director Robert Mulligan.

But Foote was initially soured by his Hollywood experience, especially the lack of control a writer had for the finished product. So he returned to theater where he began adapting other writers' stories for the stage, but was wooed back to film with the emergence of small independent filmmaking in the 1970s.

Actor Robert Duvall (who had made his film debut in "Mockingbird") starred in the 1973 movie "Tomorrow," Foote's screenplay adaptation of a Faulkner story. The experience renewed Foote's faith in writing again for the movies.

"It just opened a whole new world for me," Foote told the Houston Chronicle in 1995. "I thought, if I do films, this is what I want to do."

After his mother's death in 1974, Foote began his "Orphans Home Cycle," based loosely on his parents' early lives. Independent films were made of four of the plays: "1918"; "On Valentine's Day"; "Courtship"; and "Convicts."

He began to work on "Tender Mercies" in 1979 and then began reworking "The Trip to Bountiful." Both films earned Oscars for their stars — Duvall and actress Geraldine Page.

Foote had homes in New York's Greenwich Village, New Hampshire and Wharton. "A lot of writing is thinking," he said in a 2004 AP interview. "In Wharton, people leave me alone, the phone doesn't ring. In New York, there are a lot of plays to see, and I try to see as many as I can."

Born March 14, 1916, the son of a clothing store owner, Foote first set out for California at age 17, where he spent a two-year apprenticeship at the Pasadena Playhouse. Then he was off to New York, where he ran into choreographer Agnes de Mille.

Upon hearing Foote's hometown tales, she offhandedly suggested he write down the stories.

Foote continued to act, but in 1940 took up de Mille's advice and staged his first effort, the one-act "Wharton Dance." He returned to his parents' home to work on his first full-length play, "Texas Town," which opened the following year in New York.

Brooks Atkinson, New York Times drama critic at the time, called Foote's debut work a "feat of magic."

In the 1950s, Foote moved from the stage to the then-infant medium of television, writing weekly teleplays for NBC's "Television Playhouse." His first script for the prime-time anthology was "The Trip to Bountiful." Starring Lillian Gish, the March 1953 televised performance was later expanded into a three-act play for a two-month run on Broadway.

Foote had married Lillian Vallish, who became his producer, in 1945. She died in 1992.

Three of their four children pursued careers in acting and writing. A revival of "A Trip to Bountiful," staged in New York in 2005, featured daughter Hallie Foote as the daughter-in-law. Horton Foote Jr. also became an actor; Daisy Foote a playwright and screenwriter, and Walter Foote a lawyer.

Private funeral services will be held in Texas in the spring. A memorial service is also planned.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press
Published in Star-Gazette on Mar. 5, 2009.
Memories & Condolences
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42 entries
March 5, 2017
Godspeed Horton, and thank you for sharing a part of your life with us.
Harry Simpson
September 22, 2016
Valenda Newell
March 29, 2014
Please accept my sincere condolences on the death of your dear love one. “And no resident will say: I am sick…” Isa 33:24. This is a promise God has made known in his word. Perhaps one day in the divine future you or I may see again those fallen from our lives due to a sickness or illness that led to an untimely death. Prayers go out to the surviving family and friends may the God of comfort continue to bless you and yours.
July 14, 2012
You are still loved
Dorothee Lockett
June 12, 2012
March 1, 2011
Too the Family of Horton.
I rely Love To Kill a Mocking Bird I never miss it when it's on TV.
Irely in joy the people who where in it.
I amm deeply sorry most all are gone.
Mimi Rubinelli
March 12, 2010
A wonderful man. You have inspired me, thank you, Horton. From Clarity in Wonderland.
March 9, 2010
For Horton...


Do not weep for me when I no longer dwell among the wonders of the earth; for my larger self is free, and my soul rejoices on the other side of pain...on the other side of darkness.

Do not weep for me, for I am a ray of sunshine that touches your skin, a tropical breeze upon your face, the hush of joy within your heart and the innocence of babes in mothers arms.

I am the hope in a darkened night. And, in your hour of need, I will be there to comfort you. I will share your tears, your joys, your fears, your disappointments and your triumphs.

Do not weep for me, for I am cradled
in the arms of God. I walk with the angels, and hear the music beyond the stars.

Do not weep for me, for I am within you;
I am peace, love, I am a soft wind that caresses the flowers. I am the calm that follows a raging storm. I am an autumns leaf that floats among the garden of God, and I am pure white snow that softly falls upon your hand.

Do not weep for me, for I shall never die, as long as you remember me...
with a smile and a sigh.

© Joe Fazio
jfazio@gmail.com /Joe Fazio,
Beverly Hills, California
June 10, 2009
I just heard of Mr. Foote's passing. My deepest condolences to the family. Over the years Mr. Foote gave me advice and encouragement when my family refused to recognize my desire to write. His Orphans Home Cycle, though, managed to win them over. In writing about his father's life he also captured the essence of my own father's up-bringing, making him realize the worth of such an undertaking. A generous and kind man whose influence will be felt for generations, Mr. Foote will be deeply missed.
Thomas C. Smith
April 11, 2009
April 9, 2009
I read and admired Mr. Foote's plays and screenplays and wrote him to tell him so back in the mid 1990s. He very kindly responded with a personal letter. I believe him to be the greatest of our American dramatists. I just wrote to a friend that he died peacefully in his sleep, just as he deserved.
David Vardeman
March 27, 2009
The Couch family sends you our deep sympathies. Our mother was from Wharton, Willynn Brooks. Her parents were Leland Elmore Brooks and Willynn Miles Brooks. I recall several summers as a child visiting Wharton for several weeks and getting to visit with your dad and grandmother, among others. I also had the pleasure of another visit with him in Dallas when I was in college. "Courtship" and "Valentine's Day" were being presented at a local theater. I am thankful that so many of his works have been published. My daughters will get a touch of understanding about Wharton from them. Your dad was always welcoming, charming, open and so gentle. He will be deeply missed by so many. Blessings and prayers to all of you.

Nancy Miles Couch Davis, Leland Brooks Couch, and Jot Couch
Nancy Couch Davis
March 23, 2009
My deepest sympathy to the Foote family. My father was a native of Wharton. His mother was Lucile Bolton. She was the oldest of the Bolton family of Wharton. I believe she was Horton's mother's age. Your father mentioned them in his play "Last of the Thorntons". I have a copy and will always be grateful to him for his memories of them. My Aunt visited with your father at some point in time and he was kind enough to inquire about my father and his siblings. Sadly they had all passed away. Your father has left such a wonderful legacy. He captured a time and place that will never exist again. His writings mean a great deal to me and my family.

Ann Jeter (Doggett) Aleixo
Ann Aleixo
March 20, 2009
Horton, Walter and Diane, and all of the Foote family - each of you has our deepest condolences. We are thankful to have met your Dad. A sharp Man. - Ayanna & Darryl Jarvis.
Ayanna Jarvis
March 19, 2009
Hallie and Devon,
We here in Wharton are grieving. Your Dad was such a wonderful gentle man and I always enjoyed when you visited us here at the museum. We have had many visitors to see his exhibit here and we have set up a memorial book for his friends to sign here in Wharton. I will give it to you when you come in April.
We were truly blessed that a man called Horton Foote passed through our lives and touched each and every one of us.
I am, as always here if you need me.
Janet Hobizal - Wharton County Historical Museum
March 16, 2009
Dear Foote family,

What a wonderful celebration of Life for your dear dad. I'm grateful that you have so many of his thoughts and prayers with you - forever. Also, wanted you to know that I wrote a tribute to your dad that was published in the Manchester Union Leader. You can read it at this web address:http://tinyurl.com/b8wxt2

With Love,
George Reed
March 14, 2009
Dear Horton and family,
Please accept our deepest condolences. Your dad was a very special man and we will always have his work to look back on. I know he will be truly missed by all. May he rest in peace.
Joe and Helen Downey
March 11, 2009
I send my love to you all, Hallie. I have known the Foote's -Horton's Wharton family-our next door neighbors in business and at home in Wharton, and of course loved them all so much. We had a dress shop next door to Foote's haberdashery store and I have so many memories since I was a child sitting on the stairway stoop between our stores and was so very proud of Horton, his work, seeing his plays--a dear. dear man, but he came from a dear, dear family. I remember when his Mom would drop Mr. Foote off after lunch and I would see him lean over and give her a kiss-so precious. They were older then. She always kept us informed about you all. what was happening in your lives. She was so proud. We were long time friends and proud too.
Marlene Marcovitch Rosenberg
March 11, 2009
Mercies was wonderful and Mockingbird is one of the greatest piece of artwork produced. Tommorow was also something special. Thanks for passing through our way.
Michael Brady
March 8, 2009
What a gift he had. I never met him, but he deeply touched me. My condolences to those who knew him, and to those touched by him.
March 8, 2009
My family and I extend sympathies to the Foote family upon Horton Foote's death. Mr. Foote's plays (and autobigraphies) are my favorites and I have followed his work, as a fan, all of my adult life. On my odd trips through Wharton, I always pondered over the town and the characters which once lived there and gave inspiration for such great writing. Last trip was in November, and I drove by the Foote houses, where each had activity about, and wondered if Mr. Foote was home. We will miss him, Texas will miss him, and yet we are so rewarded by having his art left to us... to read, view and enjoy throughout our own lives.
Julie Cook
March 7, 2009
I thank Mr. Foote for giving me "A Trip to Bountiful" it changed my perception of Texas and Texans. A wonderful story from a wonderful person.
John Richardson
Skowhegan Maine
John Richardson
March 7, 2009
The theater world will miss him. I had the good fortune to shake hands with him and meet his daughter in the lobby of Goodman Theatre during the recent Horton Foote Festival. A real gentleman!
John Palmer
March 7, 2009
Horton Foote has and always will be the person I most admire.
For over twenty years I had the privilege and honor of corresponding with Horton. His responses to me were always most kind and encouraging. As an actor and post-graduate theater student I find his work to be simply legendary. There will never be another Horton Foote.
During my final correspondence with Horton last year I indicated how very important it is to always keep his work alive and in the public eye. I intend to do just that.
Thank you for blessing my life.
My thoughts and prayers are with your family.
Scott Buckley
March 7, 2009
Walter, Horton, Hallie and Daisy~

My deepest sympathy on the loss of your Dad. He was just another New Boston resident that saw to it that you all lived the simple life in a quiet town as he himself had lived. Yet, he was a legend. Everyone that had the pleasure of meeting him and knowing him loved him. He had such a passion for life and love, and his family were both of those to him. He and your dear mother were such a lovely couple. My late husband as you may remember coached and/or taught most of you at Goffstown High. He often spoke of how you too, all relfected the warmth and gentle spirit of your parents. I spoke in length with your Dad many times at basketball games, and his belief that we all needed to be resilient when life throws disappointments our way was always obvious. No wonder his works were so successful as his philosophy carried over in his many writings. A tremendously gifted man, loving father and husband; we can mourn his loss and still honor his many accomplishments. The Konieczny Family
Joan Konieczny
March 7, 2009
I had the distinct pleasure of helping Horton research his family history. Much of the material found answered his many questions of the whys, the whos and the hows of events that shaped the lives of descendants of the Footes and the Hortons. His 94th birthday gift sits in my hallway, one he looked forward to receiving in April during a planned trip to Wharton.
I shall miss Horton's gentle smile, his soft voice that reflected the accent of the gentle folks who lived during the plantation days of yore, and the way he made every person who spoke to him feel at ease in his presence.
Dear, dear Horton until we meet again, thank you for always being that "gifted, darling man from Wharton, Texas".
Merle R. Hudgins Hungerford, Texas
Merle Hudgins
March 7, 2009
Each year I teach courses in Texas history to about 500 students at Texas A&M University. All of them read Horton's "Farewell" and view scenes from "Convicts" as well as from other of his filmed works. Every student learns from Horton. They could not have a better teacher and mentor.
Philip Smith
March 6, 2009
I had the honor of having dinner in Wharton, Texas with Horton Foote, Hallie Foote, several members of his family, and including three of my theatre students. The intensity of Horton's life radiated from his smile and his words of encouragement to me and my young actors. He asked to be left alone by the adults so that he could focus his attention on "these young actors." What an amazing experience for us to sit at the feet of the master and learn from him!
A year later, I was honored again by attending with his family, the opening of Dividing the Estate in NYC. Mr. Foote was gracious and proud and excited to see his work on stage, and once again wanted to spend time with those younger students of life and theatre.

My life was changed by those two encounters. We ALL have lost a great voice for American theatre, and we should be honored to continue his legacy as we produce his work on stages across the country.
Annie Dragoo, Austin, Texas
March 6, 2009
Throughout my life Mr. Horton Foote has effected so many poignant moments in my life, his stories ring true and come to life in such deeply haunting ways! I am amazed by this incredible man's talents and I will miss him in immeasurable ways! He was pure genius and I hope Wharton, Texas has the sense and decency to rename some of it's key areas in honor of this great human spirit! Godspeed, Horton, and your indemnible force will NEVER be forgotten! **PLEASE ALLOW THE MEMORIAL TO BE PUBLIC, and let us know when we may pay our respects.**
Susan Bernard
March 6, 2009
#1 fan, Cindy Pauly Delaurentis
We had the pleasure living in Wharton, Tx where Mr Foote grew up and which was the bedrock of his amazing stories of everyday people. To know Mr. Foote, is to know Wharton, a forgotton town that know body knows. But Mr. Foote saw in his childhood what really counts, the heartache and redemtion in home and in love. Wharton is proud of its native son whose talent was one of a kind, and forever enshrined in so many hearts around the world.
Cindy Pauly DeLaurentis
March 6, 2009
Rest in Peace Horton.
Sheila Smith
March 5, 2009
Richard H. Herrick
March 5, 2009
I had the good fortune to see Mr. Foote at the opening of "The Trip to Bountiful" at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago last year. I now wish I had had the nerve to tell him how much I admired his work. My deepest sympathies to his family. His work is timeless.
Nancy C.
March 5, 2009
My prayers and great big hugs go out to the family. Hallie, you took such great care of your father. It's a pleaser knowing you and it was a pleasure knowing your dad. What a wonderful man. We hope to see you in Wharton soon. We will miss him.
God Bless!
Chuck and Marcy Harper
March 5, 2009
Mr. Foote introduced this Wharton, Texas native to the theatre at an early age. Reading and experiencing his plays was always such a delight for me. I am so thankful for his interpretations of our southern life.
Jane Gray
March 5, 2009
My deepest condolences to the family
March 5, 2009
March 5, 2009
One of the few writers who knew the voice of his characters so well that you could hear it too. He wrote about things so familiar to me that I could get homesick.
Melinda C.
March 5, 2009
About us, the common people, in an uncommon way. Thank you. Rest in eternal peace.
Henryk Zaleski USN (Ret)
March 5, 2009
I have always been a great fan and had the opportunity to meet him when he did a book signing at the University of St. Thomas here in Houston. He was such a delight. I am very glad we have his work to enjoy.
Susan C
March 5, 2009
His words were an inspiration. He will be forever missed.
Diana V.
March 5, 2009
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