Alan Sharp (12 January 1934 – 8 February 2013) was a Scottish novelist and screenwriter. He published two novels in the 1960s, and subsequently wrote the screenplays for about twenty films, mostly produced in the United States.
12 January 1934|
8 February 2013 (aged 79)|
Los Angeles, California, United States
Sharp was raised in Greenock, Scotland, the son of a single mother, and he was adopted at the age of six weeks by Margaret and Joseph Sharp, a shipyard worker. His adoptive parents belonged to a Salvation Army church. Alan left school at 14 to apprentice in the yards, the first of a long series of odd jobs he held prior to his national military service and marriage. Eventually he married four times. He ultimately relocated to London with the intention of becoming a writer. One of his screenplays was broadcast on British television in 1963, and his play A Knight in Tarnished Armour was broadcast in 1965. His first novel, A Green Tree in Gedde, was published in 1965 to acclaim and won the 1967 Scottish Arts Council Award. It was the first part of a proposed trilogy, and Sharp published the second novel, The Wind Shifts, in 1967. The third novel, which had the working title The Apple Pickers, was left incomplete when Sharp emigrated to Hollywood and focused on screenwriting.
In the 1970s, six of Sharp's screenplays became high-profile Hollywood feature films, most of them dealing with quintessentially American themes and characters. Walter Chaw writes of Sharp's screenplays from this period, "On the strength of his scripts for The Hired Hand, Ulzana's Raid, and Night Moves, Scottish novelist Alan Sharp seems well at home with the better-known, more highly regarded writers and directors of the New American Cinema. Sharp's screenplays are marked by a narrative complexity and situations gravid with implication and doom." Trevor Johnston had written recently, "There's an argument to suggest that a certain seventysomething Scot could well be Britain's greatest living screenwriter. Much is made of pre-Star Wars '70s Hollywood as a kind of celluloid golden age, and Alan Sharp was there in the thick of it, working with the very best, generating the sort of track record few British screenwriters are likely to match."
David N. Meyer has incorporated an appreciation of Sharp's writing in his review of Night Moves (directed by Arthur Penn-1975). Following a description of an important seduction scene from the film, Meyer adds: "These delicious, poisonous moments – these cookies full of arsenic – come courtesy of Alan Sharp's venomous, entrapping, perfectly circular screenplay. It's hard not to regard him – rather than Penn – as the engine of Night Moves' enduring power. Sharp had an unbroken forty year career writing features and television."
From the 1980s, most of Sharp's screenplays were for American television productions. His 1993 television screenplay (with Walter Klenhard) for The Last Hit was nominated for the Edgar Allan Poe Award (best TV feature or miniseries). His feature film projects included The Osterman Weekend (Sam Peckinpah's swan song-1982), Rob Roy (1995), and Dean Spanley (2008). Quentin Curtis called the screenplay for Rob Roy "one of the best screenplays in the last decade".
The actress Rudi Davies is the daughter of Sharp and novelist Beryl Bainbridge, who used Sharp as the inspiration for the main character in the novel Sweet William (1975). Sharp was also the inspiration for a character in one of Brian Pendreigh's short stories.
A second daughter, Rachel Minnie Sharp, also briefly an actress, was married to Luke Perry. Sharp was survived by his fourth wife, Harriet Sharp, and a total of six children, two stepsons and 14 grandchildren, though Harriet Sharp and Sharp's daughter Nola both died very shortly after him.
Alan Sharp, the young British writer who began a trilogy with the well-received "Green Tree in Gedde" and continued with the recently published but less well-received "The Wind Shifts," is halfway through the final volume, to be called "The Apple Pickers."No free online access.
The first point to make about Alan Sharp's script is that it travesties history, bearing only the flimsiest resemblance to the facts of Rob's life, and importing a great deal of sensationalism (such as the rape of Rob's wife by Cunningham). The second point is that it's one of the best screenplays of the last decade. Sharp, who is returning to his roots, after scripting Hollywood classics such as Ulzana's Raid and Night Moves, has married the narrative complexity of the classic Western and film noir, to an earthy Scottish naturalism. The result is not so much like Walter Scott (whose novel Rob Roy barely dealt with the hero) as James Boswell, when in tumultuous mood, with the whoring rage upon him.
Alan Sharp was one of the greatest Scottish writers of the 20th century, even though many people have never heard of him.