Writer Horton Foote Dies at Age 92

BY Arts Desk  March 5, 2009 at 11:21 AM EDT

Horton FooteHorton Foote, who captured the dignity, depth of character and frequent hardship of American life for the stage and screen, died Wednesday in Hartford, Conn., at the age of 92. In a career that spanned more than 60 plays and films, Foote drew heavily upon the people and stories he knew from his home town of Wharton, Texas.

“I’ve known people that the world has thrown everything at to discourage them, to kill them, to break their spirit. And yet something about them retains a dignity. They face life and they don’t ask quarters,” Foote told the New York Times in 1986.

Chronicling small town life, earned Foote many big honors, including two Academy Awards, a Pulitzer Prize and the National Medal of the Arts. He won his first Oscar for the screenplay for “To Kill a Mockingbird” in 1962. That film was the screen debut for Robert Duval, playing the reclusive Boo Radley. Foote and Duval became frequent collaborators and both took home Oscars for the movie “Tender Mercies” in 1984.

His daughter, Hallie Foote, also performed in many of his plays and films in later years. She is currently starring in a stage adaption of “To Kill a Mockingbird” at the Hartford Stage Company. Horton Foote was in Hartford reworking his nine-play “Orphan’s Home Cycle,” which will be presented in a three-part production next fall at the Stage Company and the Signature Theatre in New York. The Signature devoted their entire 1994-95 season to Foote’s work, staging “The Young Man From Atlanta,” which went on to win a Pulitzer Prize.

Often thought of as a combination of Anton Chekhov and William Faulkner, Foote mined the details of daily life to reveal the universal struggles over love, longing and loss. Other noted plays and films include “The Carpetbagger’s Children” and “The Trip to Bountiful.”

Foote earned wide respect from peers, actors and critics, the type perhaps captured so poignantly near the end of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” As the crammed balcony of an otherwise empty courtroom stand quietly, a great man and makes his exit.