LOS ANGELES -- Two-time Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and Emmy-winning television writer Stewart Stern (Rebel Without a Cause, The Last Movie, TV's Sybil) died on Monday, February 2, at the Swedish Hospital in Seattle, Washington, at age 92 after a battle with cancer.
According to his family, he was "surrounded by the next generation of filmmakers and screenwriters he had mentored and inspired, as well as friends and family who came from all parts of the country for a two-week vigil before his death."
Over the course of his career, Stern's screenwriting credits included the iconic '50s teen rebellion drama, Rebel Without a Cause (1955, Screenplay by Stewart Stern, Adaptation by Irving Shulman, Story by Nicholas Ray), starring James Dean and Natalie Wood, as well as a related documentary feature on the late actor, The James Dean Story (1957), co-directed by Robert Altman, 1971's notorious counter-culture indie drama, The Last Movie, co-written and directed by Dennis Hopper (Written by Stewart Stern, Story by Dennis Hopper and Stewart Stern), The Ugly American (1963, Screenplay & Screen Story by Stewart Stern, From the novel by William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick), starring Marlon Brando, which earned him a Writers Guild Award nomination for Best Written American Drama, Rachel, Rachel (1968, Based on Jest of God by Margaret Laurence), starring Joanne Woodward, for which he earned an Oscar nomination (Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium) as well as a WGA nomination for Best Written American Drama.
His other screenwriting credits included Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams (1973), The Rack (1956, From a Teleplay by Rod Serling), starring Paul Newman, The Outsider (1961, Screenplay by Stewart Stern, Based on The Hero of Iwo Jima, a Story by William Bradford Huie), Thunder in the Sun (1959, Screenplay by Russell Rouse, Adaptation by Stewart Stern), and his debut feature film, Teresa (Screenplay by Stewart Stern, Story by Alfred Hayes and Stewart Stern), for which he earned his first Oscar nomination for Best Writing, Motion Picture Story, shared with Hayes. He also wrote the Oscar-winning short film, Benjy (1951).
"Stewart Stern lived so many lives! He was a great screenwriter, a tireless mentor, a WWII hero, an interlocutor with the primates at the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle and a man possessed of greater generosity of spirit than most anyone I've ever met. He had such access to his feelings, and in his presence you had the same. In so many conversations I can recall having with him I ended up near tears not in sorrow, but in recognition of the truths he so wisely and gently shared. This is the saddest thing. He was 92 but should have been with us forever," said WGAW Vice President Howard A. Rodman.
On the small screen, Stern also wrote several telefilms, including the acclaimed 1976 miniseries Sybil (From the book by Flora Rheta Schreiber) starring Sally Field, which memorably explored multiple personality disorder, earning Stern an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Special Program Drama or Comedy Adaptation, as well as a lead actress Emmy Award for Field and the program (Outstanding Special Drama or Comedy), as well as the holiday TV movie A Christmas to Remember (1978), which earned Stern a Writers Guild Award for Anthology Adaptation.
During the '50s, Stern also wrote several productions for TV drama anthologies such as Playhouse 90 ("Heart of Darkness," 1958), Goodyear Playhouse ("Thunder of Silence" and "And Crown Thy Good," 1955), and The Gulf Playhouse ("Crip," 1953).
Stern's personal experiences on the set during the rehearsal and filming of the 1973 TV adaptation of Tennessee Williams' classic family drama The Glass Menagerie provided him with the material for his book, No Tricks in My Pocket: Paul Newman Directs, chronicling Newman's direction of the stage play for television.
Born on March 22, 1922, Stern was raised in New York City. After graduating from the University of Iowa, he served in the U.S. Army during World War II in the 106th Infantry Division and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. For his military service, Stern received a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star, and Combat Infantry Badge. According to his family, Stern felt his writing "was always informed by that profound experience and the relations formed with his Army buddies."
Connected to Hollywood via family ties, Stern was the nephew of Paramount Pictures founder Adolph Zukor, and his cousins were the Loews, who formerly controlled MGM. In his later years, he was subject of the 2005 documentary, Going Through Splat: The Life and Work of Stewart Stern. Stern is also the subject of an upcoming documentary written and directed by Oscar-winning screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie set for release later in 2015.
A WGAW member since 1951, Stern served on the Guild's Screen Council Branch (1970-72).
On the academic front, he was a guest lecturer and instructor at USC's Film Writing Program in the 1980s. Moving to Seattle in 1986, he taught screenwriting at the University of Washington's Extension Program through the '90s. In 2005, with actor Tom Skerritt, he co-founded TheFilmSchool, a non-profit educational institute dedicated to training the next generation of film and television writers, where Stern taught a course titled "The Personal Connection." For numerous years, he also served as a mentor and taught workshops at the Sundance Institute's Screenwriting Lab, where he was revered by students and filmmakers alike.
When he wasn't writing, he volunteered thousands of hours at Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo, where he raised two Dexter calves for the Family Farm and took care of the gorillas.
Stern is survived by his wife, Marilee Stiles Stern.
There are no plans for a memorial service.
For a photo of the late Stewart Stern, click here.