Gore Vidal dies: Cultural icon made his mark on Broadway

Gore Vidal at a performance of "Lincoln Portrait" at the Hollywood Bowl in 2007.
(Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times)

Gore Vidal, who died Tuesday at 86, was a cultural icon who occupied a uniquely wide-ranging position in American letters. An essayist, novelist, playwright, screenwriter and occasional actor, Vidal was a prolific polymath whose diverse output was united by an acerbic and politically engaged intelligence.

Vidal’s career as a playwright is notable primarily for his satire “The Best Man.” The play, which depicts the machinations behind a fictional presidential convention, was revived last season on Broadway, with a cast that included James Earl Jones, Candice Bergen and John Larroquette. The production, at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre in New York, is set to run through September.

In many ways, “The Best Man” is emblematic of Vidal himself -- funny, scathing and rooted in a jaundiced view of the American political system. First performed on Broadway in 1960, the play was also revived in 2000, another presidential election year.

PHOTOS: Gore Vidal | 1925-2012


Vidal turned the play into a movie in 1964, with a cast that included Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson.

Vidal was nominated for a Tony Award for the original Broadway production of “The Best Man,” which ran for more than 500 performances. The current production was nominated for best revival of a play.

His other Broadway efforts included “A Visit to a Small Planet,” “Romulus” and “Weekend.”

In 2007, Vidal appeared in a Hollywood Bowl concert of Aaron Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait.” Seated in a wheelchair, Vidal recited Lincoln’s text alongside the L.A. Philharmonic, led by Michael Tilson Thomas.


Read the full Times obituary: Gore Vidal, iconoclastic author, dies at 86


Vidal’s ‘The Best Man’: What did critics think?

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Music review: “Lincoln Portrait,” with Gore Vidal, at Hollywood Bowl