Lorenzo Elliott Semple Jr. (born Lorenzo Elliott Semple III; March 27, 1923Â â" March 28, 2014) was an American screenwriter and sometime playwright, best known for his work on the campy television series Batman and the political/paranoia movie thrillers The Parallax View (1974) and Three Days of the Condor (1975).
Semple's writing career started in 1951, as a short story contributor to magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post and Collier's Weekly. Semple also tried writing for the theatre and had two plays produced on Broadway, Tonight in Samarkand (1955), a melodrama adapted from the French, and the comedy The Golden Fleecing (1959). The latter was bought by MGM and produced under the title The Honeymoon Machine, starring Steve McQueen, following which Semple relocated to Hollywood and established himself as a writer for several television shows, including Kraft Suspense Theatre, Burke's Law, and The Rat Patrol.
From an interview with he and Jon Dambacher, "I wrote a pilot called, Number One Son about Charlie Chanâs son. A story set in San Francisco. I wrote the script which was okay, everybody liked it, which is about all you can expect, and we were thinking about casting and everything then ABC called William Dozier saying, 'This is very embarrassing but word just came down weâre not to do any program with an ethnic lead.' They didnât want a Chinese person in it. So they said, 'Weâre very embarrassed but we owe you one.'"
While living in Spain in 1965, Semple was approached by producer William Dozier to develop a television series for ABC based on the comic book Batman. Semple wrote a pilot which was promptly picked up, and the series based on it put on the air, with popular success. Semple wrote the first four episodes. Semple also served as Executive Story Editor, a capacity in which he put his writing imprint on all of the first season's scripts, and at the same time provided the screenplay for the 1966 Batman feature film version.
He also wrote one double episode of the television series The Green Hornet called "Beautiful Dreamer," which was broadcast in October 1966.
Following Batman, Semple never wrote for television again and his screenwriting jobs took an often serious tone. His script for the critically acclaimed cult film Pretty Poison (1968) won the award of the New York Film Critics Circle Awards as best screenplay of its year. From interview with Jon Dambacher, "Fox, 20th Century Fox, hated the movie (Pretty Poison). They really hated it. They released it at only one theatre in New York on the upper west side. Just one theatre without any press screening. It happen thatâ"Pauline Kael was independently a friend of mine. She called up Joe Morgenstern who was a critic in the Wall Street Journal. She said, 'Joe, thereâs a movie thatâs so terrible that Fox wonât let us see it and put it out at one theatre. Letâs go see what kind of movie that was. Maybe we can really beat Fox over the head' and they loved the movie. So, naturally, they wildly over-praised it, in my opinion. They started a movement for it..."
He went on to co-write such dramas as Papillon (1973) (with Dalton Trumbo) and The Drowning Pool (1975), as well as The Parallax View and Three Days of the Condor.
Following Condor, he wrote several movies for producer Dino De Laurentiis, including the popular but critically assailed King Kong-remake (1976); Hurricane (1979), a major box office flop starring Mia Farrow, on which Semple is also credited as Executive Producer; and Flash Gordon (1980), again a comic book derivative, done in a deliberately over-the-top style reminiscent of the "Batman" sensibility. As with his Batman, serious comic-book devotees assailed Semple for the allegedly disrespectful approach he took to the printed originals.
After Never Say Never Again (1983), a non-Eon Productions film in the James Bond series which brought Sean Connery back to the role for the last time, Semple wrote a final comic book adaptation, Sheena (1984), based on the comic book Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.
Subsequently, Semple and retired agent and producer Marcia Nasatir reviewed movies on YouTube as the Reel Geezers.
In September 2008, he was hailed by the Writers Guild of America as a Living Legend. In 2010, the American Cinemateque presented a two-night retrospective of his movies in Santa Monica.
In January 2013, author Jon Dambacher dedicated his short novel "A Strange, Sickly Beauty" to him.
Semple died of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles, California, just one day after his ninety-first birthday.
He was the nephew of playwright Philip Barry.
- Batman (1966)
- Fathom (1967)
- Pretty Poison (1968)
- Daddy's Gone A-Hunting (with Larry Cohen) (1969)
- The Sporting Club (1971)
- The Marriage of a Young Stockbroker (1971)
- Papillon (with Dalton Trumbo) (1973)
- The Super Cops (1974)
- The Parallax View (with David Giler) (1974)
- The Drowning Pool (1975)
- Three Days of the Condor (with David Rayfiel) (1975)
- King Kong (1976)
- Hurricane (with Tracy Keenan Wynn and Walter Hill) (1977)
- Flash Gordon (with Michael Allin) (1980)
- Never Say Never Again (1983)
- Sheena (with David Newman) (1984)
- Never Too Young to Die (with Gil Bettman) (1986)
- The Alcoa Hour (1955)
- Target (1958)
- Pursuit (1958)
- The Rogues (1964)
- Burke's Law (1964)
- Batman (1966)
- Thompson's Ghost (1966)
- The Rat Patrol (1966)
- The Green Hornet (1966)
- Rearview Mirror (1984)
- Rapture (1993)
- Lorenzo Semple, Jr. at the Internet Movie Database
- Lorenzo Semple, Jr. at the Internet Broadway Database
- Requiem for a cheeky 'Batman'
- The Reel Geezers's channel on YouTube
- Lorenzo Semple, Jr. interview video at the Archive of American Television