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L.M. 'Kit' Carson dies at 73; filmmaker helped write 'Paris, Texas'

L.M. 'Kit' Carson dies at 73; filmmaker helped write 'Paris, Texas'
Filmmaker L.M. "Kit" Carson, a writer, actor, producer and director who helped write "Paris, Texas" and played a key role in launching the careers of fellow Texans Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson, has died in Dallas at the age of 73. (William Snyder / The Dallas Morning News)

Filmmaker L.M. "Kit" Carson, who helped write "Paris, Texas" and played a key role in launching the careers of fellow Texans Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson, died Oct. 20 at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. He was 73.

He had been hospitalized since February, said his son, Hunter Carson. The cause of death was not disclosed.

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In addition to being a producer, writer and director, Carson had several acting roles, including the title part in the 1967 faux documentary "David Holzman's Diaries," which was the debut film of director Jim McBride. But Carson was also known for helping young filmmakers.

"My dad made it OK," Hunter Carson said, "for filmmakers to chase the craziest ideas."

Including an offbeat comedy about three bumbling friends who scheme to pull off crimes. "Bottle Rocket" (1996), which was the first feature directed by Anderson and featuring actor Wilson, was just fragments of black-and-white film when they first showed it to Carson.

"They showed me 12 minutes of scattered shooting," Carson said in a 2011 interview by Sam Adams for the A.V. Club website. "I was like, 'Great, you got a script?'"

Carson guided them through writing one and raised the money to make a short version of the film. He further arranged for it to be shown at the Sundance Film Festival, where it caused enough of a stir to obtain financing for a full movie. Carson was credited as co-producer.

Anderson and Wilson, in a joint statement that appeared last week on the website http://www.rogerebert.com, called Carson "a natural guru" who "had a rustic glamour, like a sort of cowboy-screenwriter."

"He gave us a one-on-one tutorial in scriptwriting and short-film editing," they wrote. "He introduced us to the rest of our lives."

He was born Lewis Minor Carson on Aug. 12, 1941, in the Dallas area. He got the nickname Kit when he was in school because the frontiersman was a distant relative.

When he was a boy, his family moved to Irving, near Dallas, which was then a somewhat rural area. "They had a milk cow," Hunter Carson said.

Kit Carson graduated from a private high school now called Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas and earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Dallas. He traveled back and forth to New York, where he worked as a stage manager and for documentary filmmaker Robert Drew, who was one of the pioneers of cinéma vérité. Carson and McBride made the low-budget, largely improvised "David Holzman's Diaries" — in an episodic diary format — about a young filmmaker.

"What I find interesting," Carson said in the Adams interview, "is that the Internet is again using that type of model for learning how to tell stories."

He co-directed the 1971 documentary "The American Dreamer," about DennisHopper, and went on to work on various projects in the 1970s and '80s, including a 1983 English-language adaptation of the French New Wave classic "Breathless."

Carson and actress Karen Black were married in Los Angeles in 1975. Their son, Hunter, was cast in a key role in the 1984 film "Paris, Texas," directed by Wim Wenders and written by Sam Shepard. The director, who was having problems with sections of the script, asked Carson to do some rewriting, for which he received an adaptation credit.

His marriage to Black, who died last year, ended in divorce.

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In addition to his son, Carson is survived by his wife, Cynthia Hargrave; brothers David and Carl; and three grandchildren.

Twitter: @davidcolker

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