Edward Anhalt, a screenwriter who won Academy Awards for the 1950 film "Panic in the Streets" and 1964's "Becket," loved cats and a good martini and conceded that he enjoyed the rewards of writing far more than the craft, has died. He was 86.
Anhalt died Sunday in his Pacific Palisades home of multiple myeloma, said his nephew, Jonathan Barry, of Jonathan Barry Productions.
The screenwriter also earned an Oscar nomination for "The Sniper"; a Western Hall of Fame award for "Jeremiah Johnson," starring Robert Redford; Edgar Allan Poe awards from the Mystery Writers of America for "The Boston Strangler," starring Henry Fonda and Tony Curtis, and "Contract on Cherry Street"; and Writers Guild Awards for "Peter the Great" and the television miniseries "QB VII," which also received an Emmy nomination.
Among Anhalt's other credits were such films as "Not as a Stranger," with Frank Sinatra and Robert Mitchum; "The Pride and the Passion," with Cary Grant, Sinatra and Sophia Loren; "Young Savages," with Burt Lancaster and Shelley Winters; "The Madwoman of Chaillot" with Katharine Hepburn; "The Man in the Glass Booth" with Maximilian Schell; "Escape to Athena," with David Niven, Roger Moore and William Holden, and such TV movies as the 1981 version of "Madame X," starring Tuesday Weld and Anhalt's then-wife, Camilla Carr.
Anhalt also directed occasionally and acted in small character roles.
A stalwart in Hollywood's stable of writers for more than half a century, Anhalt preferred the money and the fame to be gained from writing to the writing itself, his nephew said. Anhalt told The Times in 1981 that, although he usually worked a standard 9-to-5 day and faced tight deadlines, he would do practically anything to avoid writing.
While employed by Hal Wallis--for whom he adapted the classic "Becket" as well as lesser vehicles such as "Boeing, Boeing" for Jerry Lewis and a couple of films for Elvis Presley--Anhalt said he devised a way of dealing with Wallis' habit of roaming the corridors of his writers building listening for the sounds of creativity. Anhalt simply recorded the sound of a busy typewriter and played the tape whenever Wallis was likely to pass by.
Julie Anhalt Rice, the writer's only child, told Associated Press after his death that whatever spirituality was derived from "Becket" or anything else her father wrote, "he lived for a great martini."
Anhalt once told the story of his well-fueled 1952 Oscar acceptance speech for blacklisted writer Carl Foreman for "High Noon": "Stimulated by my date for the evening, Ethel Waters, and several martinis, I went to the stage and, in accepting the award, referred to Carl's great talents," Anhalt told The Times in 1965. "The Un-American Activities investigators were on me the next day."
Asked once by nephew Barry why he had never been blacklisted, the irrepressible Anhalt replied, "Because I was just too good."
Born in New York City, Anhalt began writing at the age of 15, when he reconstructed George Bernard Shaw's play "On the Rocks" and audaciously sent his version to the playwright. Shaw responded with the advice that he stop fiddling with other people's work and write something of his own.
Anhalt did that as he studied at Columbia University and Princeton. But he nevertheless became best known as a gifted adapter of literary properties.
He got into the movie business as a cameraman for documentaries in the late 1930s, and Anhalt developed an unerring understanding of how to write scenes that could be filmed, with an emphasis on action.
With his first wife, Edna, Anhalt began his professional writing career by churning out fictional short stories for pulp magazines under the pseudonym Andrew Holt. The stories attracted Hollywood attention, and the Anhalts left New York for Los Angeles shortly after World War II. Their first film was "Strange Voyage" in 1946.
Anhalt once said the couple's battles with the studio and each other during production of Stanley Kramer's first directorial effort, "Not as a Stranger," led to his 1956 divorce from writing partner Edna after 20 years.
The ever-adaptable Anhalt, whose writing included occasional Sunday opinion pieces for The Times, married four more times.
He is survived by his fifth wife, the former Huguette Patenaude, and his daughter.
Services will be private.