Richard Condon | Obituary by Myrna Oliver

This literature criticism consists of approximately 3 pages of analysis & critique of Richard Condon.
This section contains 617 words
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Obituary by Myrna Oliver

SOURCE: "Richard Condon; Best-Selling Novelist," in Los Angeles Times, April 10, 1996, p. A12.

In the obituary below, Oliver presents a summary of Condon's life and career.

Richard Condon, best-selling author of about two dozen novels—including The Manchurian Candidate and Prizzi's Honor, which were made into popular films—died Tuesday in a Dallas hospital. He was 81.

Condon, who spent 27 years in Mexico and Europe, had lived in Dallas for the past 16 years to be near his family. He had suffered from heart and kidney problems.

His 1959 novel The Manchurian Candidate featured an American prisoner of war in Korea who is brainwashed by communists to kill a powerful Joseph McCarthyesque presidential candidate in the United States. The film, starring Laurence Harvey as the prisoner and Frank Sinatra as a fellow soldier who tries to stop him, was seen as a liberal sendup of political paranoia when it was released in 1962.

But it was still playing when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas in November 1963, and its similarities to real life prompted its quick withdrawal from circulation. Some people suggested that the slaying was inspired by the film—an astounding idea to Condon.

Originally, the acclaimed motion picture did not fare well at the box office, especially outside urban areas. It had greater success when it was re-released by Sinatra and its co-owners 25 years later.

"The audience did not know if it was coming from the left or the right," Condon said in 1988 of the original release. "In the first week, it was picketed by communists in Paris and the American Legion in Orange County."

Condon also wrote a series of novels about the Prizzi organized crime family, but only the first, Prizzi's Honor, was filmed. Condon, with Janet Roach, adapted his 1982 novel into the screenplay for the 1985 film starring Jack Nicholson and Anjelica Huston. Their script was nominated for an Academy Award, and Huston won the Oscar for best supporting actress. The screenplay also won awards from the Writers Guild of America and the British Motion Picture Academy.

Former Times entertainment editor Charles Champlin wrote in praise of the novel: "Richard Condon stands among the American popular novelists of his generation like a borzoi among retrievers. He may not (but may) be better or more efficient at what he does, but he is indubitably and refreshingly different."

The novelist's sense of humor, Champlin said, included "an eccentric vision of the real world as requiring only the slightest push to expose all that is preposterous and bizarre in it."

"He begins with observable reality—brainwashing, an Asian war, geopolitics, the Kennedy family, the Mafia—moves up one floor and starts imagining."

Condon's first novel, The Oldest Confession in 1958, was about bullfighting and thievery in Spain. It was made into the 1962 film The Happy Thieves starring Rex Harrison and Rita Hayworth.

Another novel, Winter Kills, was made into a film in 1979 starring Jeff Bridges as the younger brother of an assassinated president investigating the murder.

Condon said that all his books, usually seen as black comedies, focused on the abuse of power.

Other novels included A Talent for Loving, Any God Will Do, Money Is Love, Death of a Politician, Prizzi's Family, Prizzi's Glory and Prizzi's Money.

Condon began writing novels when he was in his 40s. A native New Yorker, he spent 22 years as a New York-based film publicist for Walt Disney Productions and other major studios.

He joked that he became a novelist after the motion picture business gave him an ulcer and he realized that "all I could do was spell."

Hollywood moguls were surprised when the publicist began publishing successful novels. "You mean," exclaimed one producer, "this is that fat guy who used to meet our plane in Paris?"

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This section contains 617 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Obituary by Myrna Oliver
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