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A CurtainUp Feature
An Overview of Horton Foote's Career
By Elyse Sommer
Check out our Playwright's Album for more famous playwright profiles
Trademarks Of Foote's Work
Chronology of Produced Plays
Movies, Television, Radio
Awards and Honors
Links To Reviews
Quotes From Foote's Plays and By and About Him
March 5, 2009. Broadway marquees dimmed on this day for one minute at exactly 8:00pm in tribute to Horton Foote who died on March 4th died at the age of 92. At the time of his death after a brief illness, Foote was in his temporary home in Hartford, Connecticut where he was adapting his nine-play Orphans' Home Cycle into a three-part production that will be staged next fall at the Hartford Stage Company and the Signature Theater in New York. A gentle, gentlemanly writer, and one of America's great treasures.Foote was recently represented on Broadway by Dividing the Estate, which is scheduled to play Hartford Stage later this season. He won the Pulitzer for The Young Man From Atlanta, which was also nominated for a Tony Award as Best Play. His many other plays include The Trip to Bountiful, The Traveling Lady, and a series of plays now grouped as "The Orphans' Home Cycle," that are set to be co-produced next season by Hartford Stage and New York City's Signature Theatre Company. Horton Foote was born March 14, 1916 in Wharton, Texas where his father ran a haberdashery. Though just 50 miles southeast of Houston and 40 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico, the Wharton of Foote's youth was dominated by plantations and thus more like a small town in Georgia than Texas.
Foote decided to be an actor when he was twelve and by the time he graduated from high school at sixteen he realized that his future lay away from Texas. His plan to begin his life as an actor in New York was nixed by his parents though a year later they did give him the go-ahead to go to California where he became an apprentice at the Pasadena Playhouse. When he did make it to New York Foote joined the company that became the American Actors' Theater and that's where he began to write -- the wellspring of inspiration for his early 1940s work and everything that followed was the place and people he left behind, with the fictional town of Harrison a stand-in for Wharton.
It was television -- what we now refer to as its golden age -- that gave Foote the chance to support himself and his wife (Lillian Valish). His prodigious output included plays for stage, screen and television with many of his stories reworked to fit all three mediums. More recently he has added a two installment autobiography.
Now 90, Foote maintains an apartment in Manhattan but in the 1960s, with the response to his work in something of a decline, New Hampshire became the place he chose to raise his family. .For that family the theater has become something of a family venture. His daughter Hallie, has become the chief interpreter of his female characters. Daughter Daisy has followed in her father's footsteps as a playwright, working in film as well as live theater. One of her plays reviewed at CurtainUp was directed by her dad. We interviewed her in connection with a workshop production of a new play shortly before a revival of his The Trip to Bountiful featuring her sister, opened the 2005-06 Signature Theater season. (Daisy Foote Interview. . . review of The Trip to Bountiful revival).
Foote is indeed an American literary treasure. He remains actively involved in the theater and was at hand to chat with audiences attending the well-received Bountiful revival at the Signature Theater. For ongoing information about Horton Foote, you might want to check out the Horton Foote Society, a philanthropic organization formed a few years ago. Their web site is at http://hortonfootesociety.org/
Trademarks Of Foote's Work
Foote's seemingly endless supply of small town Texas stories dates back to listening to his father's compassionate accounts of his customers' lives. The secret of his success stems from his ability to make oral histories of small lives interesting and alive, his never-ending curiosity to understand why some people are destroyed by life's tragedies while others survive. Though his stories are deceptively simple in that his accounts of people's lives are also running commentary on the changes in American culture and the need to come to grip with those changes.
According to Foote' biographers Charles Watson what distinguishes him from other playwrights of his time is is the deep compassion that shapes his many plays. "He is not a social protester like Arthur Miller, a constant experimenter with dramatic techniques like Eugene O'Neill, nor a psychological investigator like Tennessee Williams. Rather it is his sensitivity to the troubled men and women who live in Southeast Texas that gives his work unity."
Foote's style is often called Chekhovian because it the stories and themes are so focused on the past and because he writes the sort of rounded scenes and characters that are a gift to actors as well as audiences. In explaining his approach to playwriting, Foote himself quotes Trepliovs speech in the last scene of The Sea Gull: "Im coming more and more to the conclusion that its a matter not of old forms and not of new forms, but that a man writes, not thinking at all of what form to choose, writes because it comes pouring out from his soul."
Chronology of Produced Stage Plays
1944 Only The Heart, The American Actors Company, starring Mildred Dunnock and June Walker.
1952 The Chase, produced By Jose Ferrer, starring John Hodiak, Kim Hunter, and featuring Kim Stanley.
1953 The Trip To Bountiful, The Theatre Guild, starring Lillian Gish, Jo Van Fleet, and introducing Eva Marie Saint.
1954The Traveling Lady, The Playwrights Producing Company And Roger Stevens, starring Kim Stanley and Lonny Chapman.
1997 The Young Man From Atlanta, directed By Robert Falls, Goodman Theatre, Chicago. . Starring Shirley Knight and Rip Torn. Longacre Theatre, New York, New York. Pulitzer Prize And Tony Nomination.
OFF-BROADWAY AND REGIONAL
1941 Texas Town, American Actors Company, New York City.
1942 Only The Heart, American Actors Company, Provincetown Playhouse, New York City.
1950 Celebration, Anta Theatre, New York City.
1956 The Midnight Caller and John Turner Davis, Sheridan Square Playhouse, New York City.
1962 The Trip To Bountiful, Greenwich Mews Theatre, New York City.
1968 Tomorrow, with Robert Duvall. Based On William Faulkner short story. HB Playwrights Foundation, New York City.
1976 A Young Lady Of Property, HB Playwrights Foundation, New York City.
1977 Night Seasons, HB Playwrights Foundation, New York City)
1975 Courtship, HB Playwrights Foundation, New York City.
1979 Nineteen-Eighteen, HB Playwrights Foundation, New York City.
1980 Valentine's Day, HB Playwrights Foundation. New York City.
1980 In A Coffin In Egypt, HB Playwrights Foundation, Starring Sandy Dennis.
1981 The Man Who Climbed The Pecan Tree, Blind Date, Loft Theatre, Los Angeles, California.
1982 The Roads To Home, Three One-Act Plays: Nightingale, The Dearest Of Friends, Spring Dance, Manhattan Punch Line Theatre.
1982 The Old Friends, HB Playwrights Foundation
1983 Cousins, Loft Theatre, Los Angeles, California.
1984 Courtship, Actors Theatre Of Louisville.
1985 Road To The Graveyard, A One-Act Play, Ensemble Studio Theatre
1985 Blind Date, One Armed Man, The Prisoner's Song, HB Playwrights Foundation.
1985 Courtship & On Valentine's Day, Dallas, Texas.
1986 The Traveling Lady, Alley Theatre, Houston, Texas.
1986 Lily Dale, Samuel Beckett Theatre, New York City. Starring Molly Ringwald.
1986 Blind Date, Ensemble Studio Theatre.
1986 The Widow Claire, Circle In The Square. Starring Matthew Broderick and Hallie Foote.
1988 The Man Who Climbed The Pecan Tree, A One-Act Play, Ensemble Studio Theatre.
1988 The Habitation Of Dragons, Pittsburgh Public Theatre, With Marco St. John And Hallie Foote.
1989 Dividing The Estate, McCarter Theatre, Princeton, New Jersey.
1990 Talking Pictures, The Asolo Performing Ars Center, Sarasota, Florida.
1990 Dividing The Estate part of Great Lakes Playhouse Horton Foote Festival,.
1990 The Trip To Bountiful, A.D. Players, Houston, Texas. & Zachary Scott Theatre, Austin, Texas.
1991 The Trip To Bountiful, Actors Theatre, Louisville, Kentucky; New Harmony, Indiana Theatre.
1991 Talking Pictures, Stages Theatre, Houston, Texas.
1991 Dividing The Estate, Roger Stevens Theatre:, Winston Salem. North Carolina.
1992 The Trip To Bountiful, Theatre Festival, Perth Australia.
1992 The Roads To Home, Lambs Theatre, New York City Opened: September 1992.
1992 Nineteen-Eighteen, A.C.T. Theatre, San Francisco, California.
1992 Convicts, Courtship, Nineteen-Eighteen as part of A.C.T. Theatre's A Great Day With Horton Foote
1993 Night Seasons, American Stage Company, Teaneck, New Jersey.
1993 The Trip To Bountiful, Theatrefest, Upper Montclair, New Jersey.
1993 The Trip To Bountiful, The Phoenix Theatre Company, Purchase, New York.
1994-95 Four Plays: Talking Pictures, September 1994, Night Seasons, November 1994, The Young Man From Atlanta, January 1995 and Laura Dennis, March 1996 -- Signature Theatre, New York City:
Spring 95 Brigham Young University, Festival of Foote's Films And Plays.
1995 The Young Man From Atlanta, Huntington Theatre, Boston, . Starring Ralph Waits and Carlin Glynn. Directed By Pete Masterson.
1996 The Young Man From Atlanta, Alley Theatre, Houston, Tx. Starring Ralph Waits and Carlin Glynn. Directed By Pete Masterson.
1997 The Young Man From Atlanta, Goodman Theatre, Chicago, Il. Directed By Robert Falls. Starring Shirley Knight and Rip Torn.
1997 The Death Of Papa, Playmakers Reperatory Theatre, The University Of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, N.C, Directed By Michael Wilson, Starring Ellen Burstyn, Matthew Broderick, Polly Holliday and Hallie Foote.
1998 Vernon Early, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Montgomery, Alabama. Directed By Charles Towers, Starring Jill Tanner and Philip Pleasantac.
1998 A Coffin In Egypt, Bay Street Theatre Festival, Sag Harbor, New York. Directed By Leonard Foglia Starring Glynis Johns.
1999 The Death 09' Papa, Hartford Stage, Hartford, Ct. Directed By Michael Wilson. Starring Jean Stapleton, Dana Ivey, Andrew McCarthy, Frankie Muniz, Hallie Foots and Devon Abner.
2000 The Last Of The Thorntons, Signature Theater, New York City, Starring Hallie Foots, Estelle Parsons, Jen Jones, Mason Adams and Michael Hadge.
2001 TThe Carpetbagger's Children, Alley Theatre, Houston, Tx, Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis, Mn and Hartford Stage, Hartford, Ct, Starring Halliie Foote, Jean Stapleton, Roberta Maxwell.
2002 The Actor, A.C.T. Theater, San Francisco, Ca; also at The Royal National Theatre, London, England
2002 The Carpetbagger's Children, Lincoln Center Mitzi E. Newhouse. Starring Hallie Foots, Jean Stapleton, Roberta Maxwell.
2002 Getting Frankie Married-And Afterwards, South CoastRepertory, Starring Nan Martin, Joel Anderson, Juliana Donald.
2002 The Prisoner's Song, Ensemble Studio, Starring Mary Catherine Garrison, Tim Guinee. Marceline Hugot, Michael Moran. Directed By Harris Yulin.
2003 The Trip To Bountiful, Hartford Stage, Starring Dee Maaske, Hallie Foots, Devon Abner. Directed By Michael Wilson.
2003 The Trip To Bountiful, Alley Theater, Starring Dee Maaske, Hallie Foots, Devon Abner. Directed By Michael Wilson.
2004 The Day Emily Married. Directed By Michael Wilson, Primary Stages, Starring Estelle Parson
2005 The Trip To Bountiful, Signature Theatre, Starring Lois Smith, Hallie Foots, Devon Abner. Directed By Harris Yulin.
MOVIES, TELEVISION, RADIO
1962 To Kill A Mockingbird, Screenplay By Horton Foots, produced by Alan Pakula at Universal. Starring Gregory Peck.
1966 The Chase, Screenplay By Lillian Hellman, based on a novel and play by Horton Foots, With Marion Brando, and Featuring Robert Redford, Jane Fonda, Angie Dickinson, Robert Duvall. Produced By Sam Spiegel.
1965-66 Baby The Rain Must Fall, Screenplay based on The Traveling Lady., Columbia Pictures. Starring Steve Mcqueen and Lee Remick.
1973-74 Tomorrow, based On A William Faulkner story, starring Robert Duvall and Olga Bellin.
1983 Tender Mercies, Original screenplay. Starring Robert Duvall, directed By Bruce Beresford. Official U.S. Entry, Cannes Film Festival, 1983. Academy Award and Writers Guild Award For Best Original Screen Play; Christopher Award.
1984-85 Nineteen-Eighteen Based on play of same title, Taormina Festival, Italy1985. Starring Hallie Foots, William Converse-Roberts and Matthew Broderick.
1985 The Trip To Bountiful, based on play of same title. Geraldine Page won Academy Award for Best Actress. Foote and Page received Independence Spirit Awards for Beat Writer and Best Actress.
1986 On Valentine's Day, from an original Foote play, starring William Converse-Roberts, Matthew Broderick and Hallie Foote. Official American Entry forVenice Festival, Fall 1986, Toronto Film Festival,and The U.S. Film Festival.
1986 Courtship, from an original Foote play. Starring Hallie Foots, William Converse-Rvberts, Amanda Plummer.
1987 The Story Of A Marriage. PBS American Playhouse. Five-Part Series based on Courtship, On Valentine's Day, 1918.
1990 Convicts, based on Foote's play of same title. Starring Robert Duvall and James Earl Jones.
1991 Of Mice And Men, Based on John Steinbeck's novel. Starring John Malkovich.
Horton Foote's television plays were presented by Philco-Goodyear Playhouse, Studio One, Playhouse 90, DuPont Play of the Month, and U.S. Steel Hour. They include: The Old Man, The Old Beginning, The Tears Of My Sister, The Dancers, The Night Of The Storm. Expectant Relations, Flight, The Oil Well, Member Of The Family, Death Of An Old Man, Tomorrow, A Young Lady Of Property.He adapted William Faulkner's Barn Burning and Flannery O'Connor's The Displaced Person. for the American Short Story Series.
The Habitation Of Dragons was based on his own play, for Writers Cinema.
In 1996 Showtime Cable produced his Lily Dale, and Alone in 1997.
Vernon Early, Chicago Theatre On The Air, Broadcast on WFMT-FM (98.7), June 22, 1997.
The Orphan's Home Cycle: Courtship, Valentine's Day, 1987 .&Nbsp;.&Nbsp;.&Nbsp; Roots In A Parched Ground, Convicts, Lily Dale, The Widow Claire, 1988 .&Nbsp;.&Nbsp;.&Nbsp; Cousins & The Death Of Papa, 1989. All By Grove Press
Blind Date, The Best Short Plays, Applause Theatre Book Publishers, 1988.
Tender Mercies, The Trip To Bountiful, To Kill A Mockingbird, Grove Press, 1989.
The Orphans' Home Cycle, Grove Press In Conjunction with Stage & Screen, January 2000.
The Last Of The Thorntons, Sewanee Writers' Series/The Overlook Press, 2000.
Screenplays, Sewanee Writers' Series/The Overlook Press, 2003.
The Trip To Bountiful, Tender Mercies, To Kill A Mockingbird, Grove Press 2000.
The Shape Of The River, Applause Theatre And Cinema Books, 2003.
The Carpetbagger's Children & The Actor Sewanee Writers' Series, Overlook Press, 2003
OrphanS Home, The Voice And Vision Of Horton Foote, by Laurin Porter, Louisiana State University Press, 2003.
Biographies & Memoirs
Horton Foote By Charles S. Watson, University of Texas Press, 2003
Farewell: A Memoir of a Texas Childhood, by Horton Foote, Scribner, 1999. Beginnings, (continuation of Farewell, by Horton Foote, Scribner, 2001.
Awards and Honors
1985 The Ensemble Studio Theatre Gala '85 honored Horton Foote for his contributions to the American Theatre
1987 Gapostelo Award, Brooklyn, New York 1987-88. His films were also honored at The Galveston Film Festival
1988 Elected to The Fellowship of Southern Writers
1989 Dickinson College Arts Award
1989 The William Inge Lifetime Achievement Award
1989 Evelyn Burkey Award by Writers Guild East
1991 Alley Theatre Award, Houston, Texas
1991 Headliners' Club Award, Austin, Texas
1992 Torch of Hope Award, Barbara Barondess Theatre Lab Alliance, New York City
1994 Lontinkle Award From The Texas Institute Of Letter,s Dallas, Texas
1995 Lucille Lortel Award, New York City
1995 Outer Critics Circle: Special Achievement Award to The Horton Foots Plays Presented At Signature Theatre Company: Talking Pictures, Night Seasons, Laura Dennis, The Young Man From Atlanta, New York City 1995 The Pulitzer Prize Award; Drama The Young Man From Atlanta
1995 Academy Award In Literature, American Academy of Arts And Letters, May 17, 1995, New York City
1995 Lifetime Achievement Award, Heartland Film Festival, Indianapolis, Ind
1996 Induction Into The Theatre Hall Of Fame, , New York City
1997 Dallas-Ft. Worth Film Critics Association, The Lone Star Film And Television Best Teleplay Award For Lily Dale.
1997 Humanitas Winner - Old Man, July 9, 1997
1997 Telluride Film Festival Tribute, Telluride, Colorado
1997 Emmy Award - Old Man
1997 Christopher Award - William Faulkner's Old Man
1998 Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters Department of Literature
1998 Gold Medal for Drama for his entire work from the American Academy of Arts and Letters
1999 RCA Crystal Heart, Career Achievement Award Heartland Film Festival
1999 Ian McLellan Hunter Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Writer's Guild of America, East
1999 The Kennedy Center Fund far New Americas Plays: Certificate of Award for The Last of the Thorntons
1999 Texas Book Festival Annual Bookend Award for a lifetime of contributions to Texas letters
The Pen/Laura Pels Foundation Award for Drama to a master American dramatist
2000 Last Frostier Playwright Award from the Eighth Edward Albee Theatre Conference in Alaska
2000 New York State Council of the arts, NY State Governor's Arts Award
2000 National Medal of Arts Awards in Washington, D.C
2001 Texas Medal of Arts Award in Literary Arts, presented by the Texas Cultural Trust Council
2001 The Michaela O'Harra Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Theatre by the New Dramatists Alumni,
2002 Special Achievement In Screenplay Writing Award, presented by The Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration,
2002 American Theatre Critics/Steinberg New Play Award, The Carpetbagger's Children, by the American Theatre Critics Association.
2002 Lucille Lortel Award Nomination for Outstanding Play The Carpetbagger's Children
2003 The Austin Film Society, Texas Film Hall of Fame Award, Austin, Texas
2003 The Cleanth Brooks Medal for Lifetime Achievement, presented by the Fellowship of Southern Writers, May, 2003
2003 The Degree of Humane Letters honoris causa from Southern Methodist University, May 17, 203
2004 Excellence in American Playwriting Award, Baylor University, Waco, Texas,
2004 Texas Literary Hall of Fame, Friends of the Fort Worth Public Library Mr. Foote has also received Honorary Doctorate Degrees from Drew University, Austin College, The American Film Institute, Spalding University, University of the South and University of Hartford
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Links To Reviews
The Beginning of Summer
The Carpetbagger's Children
The Carpetbagger's Children in LA>
The Day Emily Married
Dividing the Estate (Primary Stages, 2007)
Getting Frankie Married - and Afterwards/ Horton Foote(Los Angeles 2010)
The Habitation of Dragons
Harrison, TX: Three Plays by Horton Foote(Off-Broadway 2012)
Harrison, Texas (3 one-acts) (Los Angeles2008)
The Last of the Thorntons
The Orphans' Home Cycle: Part One/ Horton Foote
The Orphans' Home Cycle: Part Two/ Horton Foote
The Orphans' Home Cycle: Part Three/ Horton Foote
Roads to Home (Los Angeles)
Roads to Home
The Traveling Lady
The Trip to Bountiful
The Young Man From Atlanta
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I am no orphan, but I think of myself as an orphan, belonging to no one but you. I intend to have everything I didn't have before. A hose of my own, some land, a yard, and in that yard I will plant growing things, fruitful things. . .and I do believe I might now have these things, because you married me. — Horace Robedeaux, in The Orphans' Home Cycle Part 2
Pride is fine if you can afford it — Mr. Vaughn The Orphans' Home Cycle Part 2
How can human beings stand all that comes to them? How can they?— Horace Robedaux in The Orphans' Home Cycle Part 3.
Death, if I donít think of you, youíll vanish— Horace Robedaux in The Orphans' Home Cycle Part 3.
"When you're a writer, you have to write these stories, even if you don't get paid" --- Horton Foote
"In Horton Foote's resilience and through his dogged determination, he might more aptly have ascribed to him the nickname of a two-time candidate for the presidency, Alfred E. Smith. For Horton foote is the theater's ' happy warrior.' Not happy like a blithe Pollyanna, but happy in his world, and in his tunnel-vision obliviousness to the ever-changing society around him. A warrier, as in days of yore; a man whose quest has become his life." ---Dennis Brown, from in an interview with Foote in Shoptalk.
"Where has all that bitterness and anger gone?" ---Mamie Borden in The Beginning of Summer
"His writing is like rural Chekhov, simple but deep. . . you can't push it. You have to just let it lay there." --- Robert Duvall, the star of Horton Foote's second Oscar winning screenplay Tender Mercies
"You have to watch out with my plays. They're like yeast. You think they're one thing, then all of a sudden subtext gets to working." -- Horton Foote about his writing in Dennis Brown's Shoptalk.
"He lied. He lied. He lied. . .But I guess we lied too. I guess we all lied to ourselves and to each other."
--- Emily about the husband who has proved yet another cause of unhappiness in a life of disappointments, in The Day Emily Married " The passing of time makes me sad." --- Jessie Mae, who nevertheless is not sentimental enough about about the changes brought by the passing of time to ask her mother-in-law to stop constantly singing hymns which she declares are "going out of style." in The Trip to Bountiful
"Although Mr. Foote has no particular ax to grind, his play gives a real and languid impression of a town changing in its relation to the world. If Texas Town does not derive from Mr. Footes personal experiences and observations, he is remarkably inventive... it is impossible not to believe absolutely in the reality of his characters." ---Brooks Atkinson, in his NYTimes review of Foote's first full length play. (Atkinson was less impressed with Foote's performance).
"But I don't really write to honor the past. I write to investigate, to try to figure out what happened and why it happened, knowing I'll never really know. I think all the writers that I admire have this same desire, the desire to bring order out of chaos." -- Horton Foote
"Believe it or not, the great writer Horton Foote got his education at Wharton-but not at the Wharton 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 roles was to 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 Mockingbird 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." ---President Bill Clinton before placing the National Medal of Arts around Mr. Foote's neck on December 20, 2000. Back to Top