On this Day in Movie History, July 24, 2012: Oscar-Winning Screenwriter Frank Pierson Dies at 87

“What we have here is a failure to communicate.” This iconic line uttered by a redneck crew captain who taught Paul Newman’s Luke a brutal lesson in the movie “Cool Hand Luke” was penned by three time Academy Award nominee and Oscar winner Frank Pierson.

Pierson died Sunday evening at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after battling a short illness, said his manager, Susan Landau. He was 87.

Son of an entrepreneur father and a screenwriter mother, Pierson began his career as an entertainment correspondent for Time magazine.
breaking into television as a story editor for the western “Have Gun – Will Travel.” Working on many television shows, he moved into the movie business with his first film script, “Cat Ballou.” Starring Jane Fonda and Lee Marvin, this comedic western landed him his first Oscar nomination. Two years later, he collaborated with novelist Donn Pearce on the adaptation of “Cool Hand Luke,” about a chain-gang prisoner played by Newman who defies fellow inmates and prison guards.

In 1975, Pierson took an Oscar for his screenplay “Dog Day Afternoon,” a script he found difficult to write having never met the man whose real-life story the film was based on.

Most recently, Pierson was working as a consulting producer and writer for the television shows “Mad Men” and”The Good Wife.”

Pierson, born May 12, 1925, in Chappaqua, N.Y., served in the Army during World War II and received a bachelor’s degree in cultural anthropology from Harvard University before launching his career.

Pierson is survived by his wife, Helene; his children, Michael and Eve, and five grandchildren.

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