Horton Foote enjoys a triumphant 'second act'

He has a specific voice, a specific style, and he has never abandoned it, even though it cost him. He has never cut his talent to the fashion of the time. And because he wrote his plays whether they were going to be produced or not, he got what most American writers don't get - a second act. You are seeing continuity and fruition because he never wavered from his vision.

- Alan J. Pakula, movie producer of "To Kill a Mockingbird," on Horton Foote

In refutation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's observation, "There are no second acts in the lives of American writers," Horton Foote is riding the crest of a wave of popularity, national awards and honors, and professional activity.

On Dec. 20 in Washington, President Clinton conferred the National Medal of the Arts on Mr. Foote, noting his six-decade-long, award-winning career as a prolific writer for stage, film, and television, including two Academy Awards, the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and an Emmy.

Before placing the medal around Foote's neck, the president observed:

"Believe it or not, the great writer Horton Foote got his education at Wharton - but not at the Business School. He grew up in the small town of Wharton, Texas. His work is rooted in the tales, the troubles, the heartbreak, and the hopes of all he heard and saw there.

"As a young man, he left Wharton to become an actor and soon discovered the easiest way to get good parts: Write the plays yourself. And he hasn't stopped since.

"Among other things, he did a magnificent job of adapting Harper Lee's classic 'To Kill a Mocking Bird' for the silver screen, and writing his wonderful 'The Trip to Bountiful' and so many other tales of family, community, and the triumph of the human spirit....

"Today, we honor him for his lifetime of artistic achievement and excellence."

And Foote has not finished achieving. Currently, New York's Signature Theatre Company is performing the world premiere of "The Last of the Thorntons" (see review above).

In June, the Alley Theatre in Houston will host the world premiere of another Foote play, "The Carpetbagger's Children."

Foote is not only enjoying a triumphant second act, he is an artist very much in his prime.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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