The screenwriter whose work included diverse films such as Serpico and Saturday Night Fever and who also co-wrote Staying Alive with Sylvester Stallone was born today in 1926. Now WE know em

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Norman Wexler was born August 6, 1926 in Detroit, Michigan as a Russian-Jewish immigrant.

From the age of 17, Norman suffered from regular psychotic mania.

Horrified by her son’s mental illness and consumed with guilt and shame, his mother committed suicide.

Norman however, was brilliant with an IQ of 180. He even attended Harvard University before moving to New York in 1951 where he forged a career as a playwright.

His play “The Rope” was produced in 1965.

In 1969, Norman turned to films, writing the film “Joe” for which he received an Oscar nomination as screenwriter.

Norman Wexler, as reported years later by his own daughter, was normally an extraordinarily magical and charismatic person. His sudden explosions into madness however, became a recurring nightmare every two years or so and lasted anywhere from three to five months. In this manic state, he became a danger to everyone.

In December of 1972, Norman announced on an American Airlines flight from New York to San Francisco that he intended on killing President Nixon.

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(photo above) San Francisco — Playwright and screenwriter Norman S. Wexler leans on a counter in the city prison, late December 14, after he was arrested and charged with interfering with an airline crew and being abusive to a stewardess. the FBI said Wexler created a disturbance aboard an American Airlines flight from New York to San Francisco. When he was told to stop, he insulted the stewardess. “I admit having a fine time aboard,” Wexler told a newsman in a jail interview. (1972)

Serpico

Then Norman met the formerly blacklisted screenwriter Waldo Salt. Waldo had won an Academy Award for his work writing Midnight Cowboy in 1969.

Norman and Waldo adapted the Peter Maas biography of NYPD officer Frank Serpico into a screenplay that became the 1973 film “Serpico” which earned Norman another Oscar nomination.

He followed this success with another film titled “Mandingo” in 1975.

Saturday Night Fever

Norman read a 1976 New York magazine disco lifestyle article titled “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night.”

He turned this idea into the screenplay that became the 1977 hit film “Saturday Night Fever.”

Saturday Night Fever made John Travolta a star and generated earnings in excess of $1.2 billion in today’s dollars, more than double the more recent U.S. sales of top box office hit “Titanic.”

Norman Wexler became a very wealthy man, also being sought after as a script doctor on such films as Lipstick and The Fan.

His success had provided him with vast wealth, however his mania ended up costing him his marriage and daughters.

Staying Alive

Norman then teamed up with Sylvester Stallone who had already shot to fame as “Rocky,” had launched his successful role as Rambo in First Blood, and had a tasted the role of director with his 1978 film Paradise Alley.

Together, they wrote and Stallone directed the 1983 film Staying Alive. The sequel to Saturday Night Fever again starred John Travolta. The film’s title came from the Bee Gees song Staying Alive which was the theme song for Saturday Night Fever.

Norman co-wrote his last film “Raw Deal” with Gary DeVore in 1986.

By then, his mania had consumed him and his daughters decided to try and save him from himself.

They organized a sting operation they called “lock Daddy in the loony bin.”

Due to his criminal record for violence, his daughters gained power of attorney over his finances and working with his own attorney closed his back accounts.

After a week at large, Norman called his daughter and revealed his location in New York.

Armed with bullet-proof shields, the police broke down the door of the flat to find Norman standing naked with a gaze of transcendent euphoria on his face, as if he were an omnipotent god in a cosmic drama.

Norman was carried into an ambulance and assessed at the local psychiatric hospital. To the horror of his daughters he was released.

A genius of manipulation, he had convinced them that his daughters were only interested in his money.

Then, desperate, his daughters worked out a deal with his lawyer, the police and a psychiatrist.

Norman was arrested at home in Connecticut and taken to Silver Hill psychiatric hospital, assessed and sectioned for 12 weeks.

He never forgave his daughters, and refused to comprehend how terrifying his mental illness was.

Norman Wexler went through his last manic episode from November 1998 until February of 1999.

His illness finally had taken its toll on his health.

Early in the morning of August 23, 1999, Norman Wexler died of a heart attack at the age 73.

Now WE know em

 

 

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