|Born||August 27, 1929|
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Died||November 12, 2007 (aged 78)|
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
|Occupation||Novelist, playwright, songwriter|
Ira Marvin Levin (August 27, 1929 - November 12, 2007) was an American novelist, playwright, and songwriter. His most noted works include the novels A Kiss Before Dying (1953), Rosemary's Baby (1967), The Stepford Wives (1972), and The Boys from Brazil (1976), as well as the play Deathtrap (1978). Many of his novels and plays have been adapted to film.
Ira Levin was born on August 27, 1929, in the New York City, New York borough of Manhattan. He grew up in both Manhattan and the Bronx. His father, Charles, was a toy importer. Levin was educated at the private Horace Mann School in New York. He attended Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa from 1946 to 1948 and then New York University, where he majored in philosophy and English. He graduated in 1950. He served in the Army Signal Corps from 1953 to 1955.
Levin's first produced play was No Time for Sergeants (adapted from the Mac Hyman novel), a comedy about a hillbilly drafted into the United States Air Force. It starred Andy Griffith and jumpstarted his career. The play was adapted as a movie of the same name, released in 1958, and co-starring Nick Adams. Later the concept was developed as a 1964 television comedy series starring Sammy Jackson. No Time for Sergeants is generally considered the precursor to Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C..
Levin's best-known play is Deathtrap, which holds the record as the longest-running comedy thriller on Broadway. Levin won his second Edgar Award with this play. In 1982, it was adapted as a film of the same name, starring Christopher Reeve and Michael Caine.
Levin's first novel, A Kiss Before Dying (1953), was well received, and he won the 1954 Edgar Award for Best First Novel. A Kiss Before Dying was adapted twice as a movie of the same name, first in 1956 and again in 1991.
Levin's best-known novel is Rosemary's Baby, a horror story of modern-day Satanism and other occultisms, set in Manhattan's Upper West Side. In 1968, it was adapted as a film written and directed by Roman Polanski. It starred Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes. Ruth Gordon won an Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance. Roman Polanski was nominated for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.
Levin said in 2002,
"I feel guilty that 'Rosemary's Baby' led to The Exorcist, The Omen. A whole generation has been exposed, has more belief in Satan. I don't believe in Satan. And I feel that the strong fundamentalism we have would not be as strong if there hadn't been so many of these books [...] Of course, I didn't send back any of the royalty checks."
In the 1990s, Levin wrote two more bestselling novels: Sliver (1991), which was adapted as a film in 1993 by Phillip Noyce. It starred Sharon Stone, William Baldwin and Tom Berenger. His Son of Rosemary (1997) was produced as the sequel to Rosemary's Baby.
Stephen King has described Ira Levin as the "Swiss watchmaker" of suspense novels: "Every novel he has ever written has been a marvel of plotting. He is the Swiss watchmaker of the suspense novel; he makes what the rest of us do look like those five-dollar watches you can buy in the discount drug stores."
Levin was married twice, first to Gabrielle Aronsohn (from 1960 to 1968), with whom he had three sons, Adam, Jared, and Nicholas. He later married Phyllis Sugarman (died 2006). He had a total of four grandchildren.