Paddy Chayefsky

Sidney Aaron "Paddy" Chayefsky (January 29, 1923 – August 1, 1981) was an American playwright, screenwriter and novelist. He is the only person to have won three solo Academy Awards for Best Screenplay (the other three-time winners, Francis Ford Coppola, Charles Brackett, Woody Allen, and Billy Wilder, have all shared their awards with co-writers).[2]

He was considered one of the most renowned dramatists of the so-called Golden Age of Television. His intimate, realistic scripts provided a naturalistic style of television drama for the 1950s, and he was regarded as the central figure in the "kitchen sink realism" movement of American television.[3] Martin Gottfried wrote in All His Jazz that Chayefsky "was a successful writer, the most successful graduate of television's slice of life school of naturalism."[4]

Following his critically acclaimed teleplays, Chayefsky continued to succeed as a playwright and novelist. As a screenwriter, he received three Academy Awards for Marty (1955), The Hospital (1971) and Network (1976). The movie Marty was based on his own television drama about two lonely people finding love. Network was his scathing satire of the television industry and The Hospital was also satiric. Film historian David Thomson called The Hospital "years ahead of its time. […] Few films capture the disaster of America's self-destructive idealism so well."[5] His screenplay for Network is often regarded as his masterpiece,[6] and has been hailed as "the kind of literate, darkly funny and breathtakingly prescient material that prompts many to claim it as the greatest screenplay of the 20th century."[7]

Chayefsky's early stories were frequently influenced by the author's childhood in The Bronx. Chayefsky was part of the inaugural class of inductees into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' Television Hall of Fame. He received this honor three years after his death, in 1984.[8]

Paddy Chayefsky
Still photo
Circa 1972
Sidney Aaron Chayefsky

January 29, 1923
New York City, U.S.
DiedAugust 1, 1981 (aged 58)
New York City, U.S.
Alma materCity College of New York (1943) [1]
OccupationPlaywright, novelist and screenwriter
Years active1944–1980
Susan Sackler (m. 1949)

Early life

Paddy Chayefsky HS Yearbook
Chayefsky as a senior in high school, 1939.

Chayefsky was born in The Bronx, New York City to Russian-Jewish immigrants Harry and Gussie Stuchevsky Chayefsky who came from Moscow to New York in 1907.[9] He had two older brothers, William and Isidor.[10] He spent part of his youth in Mount Vernon, New York.[11] He attended DeWitt Clinton High School,[12] where he served as an editor-in-chief of the school's literary magazine, "The Magpie" and wrote for the school newspaper. Stan Lee graduated in his class.[13] He went to the City College of New York. While there, he played for the semi-professional football team Kingsbridge Trojans. He graduated with a degree in accounting in 1943, and then studied languages at Fordham University.[14]

Military service

During World War II, Chayefsky joined the United States Army, where he received both a Purple Heart and the nickname "Paddy". The nickname was given spontaneously when he was awakened at dawn for kitchen duty. Although actually Jewish, he asked to be excused to attend Mass. "Sure you do, Paddy," said the officer, and the name stuck.[15]

Serving with the 104th Infantry Division in the European Theatre, he was near Aachen, Germany when he was wounded, reportedly by a land mine. While recovering from his injuries in the Army Hospital near Cirencester, England, he wrote the book and lyrics to a musical comedy, No T.O. for Love. First produced in 1945 by the Special Services Unit, the show toured European Army bases for two years.[14]

The London opening of No T.O. for Love at the Scala Theatre in the West End was the beginning of Chayefsky's theatrical career. During the London production of this musical, Chayefsky encountered Joshua Logan, a future collaborator, and Garson Kanin, who invited Chayefsky to collaborate with him on a documentary of the Allied invasion, The True Glory.[15]


Returning to the United States, Chayefsky worked in his uncle's print shop, Regal Press, an experience which provided a background for his later teleplay, Printer's Measure (1953), as well as his story for the movie As Young as You Feel (1951). Kanin enabled Chayefsky to spend time working on his second play, Put Them All Together (later known as M is for Mother), but it was never produced. Producers Mike Gordon and Jerry Bressler gave him a junior writer's contract. He wrote a story, The Great American Hoax, which sold to Good Housekeeping but was never published.

He relocated to Hollywood, where he met his future wife Susan Sackler, and the couple married in February 1949. Failing to find work on the West Coast, Chayefsky returned to New York.

During the late 1940s, he began working full-time on short stories and radio scripts, and during that period, he was a gagwriter for radio host Robert Q. Lewis. Chayefsky later recalled, "I sold some plays to men who had an uncanny ability not to raise money."[16] During 1951–52, Chayefsky wrote adaptations for radio's Theater Guild on the Air: The Meanest Man in the World (with James Stewart), Cavalcade of America, Tommy (with Van Heflin and Ruth Gordon) and Over 21 (with Wally Cox).

His play The Man Who Made the Mountain Shake was noticed by Elia Kazan, and his wife, Molly Kazan, helped Chayefsky with revisions. It was retitled Fifth From Garibaldi but was never produced. In 1951, the movie As Young as You Feel was adapted from a Chayefsky story.


Paddy Chayefsky NYWTS edited
Chayefsky in 1958

He moved into television with scripts for Danger, The Gulf Playhouse and Manhunt. Philco Television Playhouse producer Fred Coe saw the Danger and Manhunt episodes and enlisted Chayefsky to adapt the story It Happened on the Brooklyn Subway about a photographer on a New York City Subway train who reunites a concentration camp survivor with his long-lost wife. Chayefsky's first script to be telecast was a 1949 adaptation of Budd Schulberg's What Makes Sammy Run? for Philco.

Since he had always wanted to use a synagogue as backdrop, he wrote Holiday Song, telecast in 1952 and also in 1954. He submitted more work to Philco, including Printer's Measure, The Bachelor Party (1953) and The Big Deal (1953). One of these teleplays, Mother (April 4, 1954), received a new production October 24, 1994 on Great Performances with Anne Bancroft in the title role. Curiously, original teleplays from the 1950s are almost never revived for new TV productions, so the 1994 production of Mother was a conspicuous rarity.

In 1953, Chayefsky wrote Marty, which was premiered on The Philco Television Playhouse, with Rod Steiger and Nancy Marchand. Marty is about a decent, hard-working Bronx butcher, pining for the company of a woman in his life but despairing of ever finding true love in a relationship. Fate pairs him with a plain, shy schoolteacher named Clara whom he rescues from the embarrassment of being abandoned by her blind date in a local dance hall. The production, the actors and Chayefsky's naturalistic dialogue received much critical acclaim and influenced subsequent live television dramas. Chayefsky had a unique clause in his Marty contract that stated that only he could write the screenplay, which he did for the 1955 movie.

Chayefsky's The Great American Hoax was broadcast May 15, 1957 during the second season of The 20th Century Fox Hour. This was actually a rewrite of his earlier Fox film, As Young as You Feel (1951) with Monty Woolley and Marilyn Monroe. The Great American Hoax was shown on the FX channel after Fox restored some The 20th Century Fox Hour episodes and telecast them under the new title Fox Hour of Stars beginning in 2002.[17]


The seventh season of Philco Television Playhouse began September 19, 1954 with E. G. Marshall and Eva Marie Saint in Chayefsky's Middle of the Night, a play which relocated to Broadway theaters 15 months later; In 1956, Middle of the Night opened on Broadway with Edward G. Robinson and Gena Rowlands, and its success led to a national tour. It was filmed by Columbia Pictures in 1959 with Kim Novak and Fredric March.

The Tenth Man (1959) marked Chayefsky's second Broadway theatrical success, garnering 1960 Tony Award nominations for Best Play, Best Director (Tyrone Guthrie) and Best Scenic Design. Guthrie received another nomination for Chayefsky's Gideon, as did actor Fredric March. Chayefsky's final Broadway theatrical production, a play based on the life of Joseph Stalin, The Passion of Josef D, received unfavorable reviews and ran for only 15 performances.[18]

Although Chayefsky was an early writer for the television medium, he eventually abandoned it, "decrying the lack of interest the networks demonstrated toward quality programming". As a result, during the course of his career, he constantly toyed with the idea of lampooning the television industry, which he succeeded in doing with Network.[19] The film is said to have "presaged the advent of reality television by twenty years" and was a "sardonic satire" of the television industry, dealing with the "dehumanization of modern life."[20]


Inspired by the work of John C. Lilly, Chayefsky spent two years in Boston doing research to write his science fiction novel Altered States (HarperCollins, 1978) about a man's search for his primal self through psychotropic drugs and an isolation tank. Chayefsky suffered greatly from stress while working on the novel, resulting in his heart attack in 1977. Subsequent to that misfortune, he was sued by one of the numerous scientific advisors he hired to help him with research.[19] He wrote the screenplay for the 1980 film, but he is credited by his real first and middle name, Sidney Aaron, because of disputes with director Ken Russell.[21]

Personal traits

Paddy Chayefsky Monument November 2011
Paddy Chayefsky's monument in Sharon Gardens Division of Kensico Cemetery
Paddy Chayefsky Footstone 2011C
Paddy Chayefsky's footstone

Drama critic Martin Gottfried gives a general description of Chayefsky's personal traits as they may have affected his writings:

"Chayefsky was a sturdy man of 42, compact and burly in the bulky way of a schoolyard athlete, with thick dark hair and a bent nose that could pass for a streetfighter's. He was a grown-up with one foot in the boys' clubs of his city youth, a street snob who would not allow the loss of his nostalgia. He was an intellectual competitor, always spoiling for a political argument or a philosophical argument, or any exchange over any issue, changing sides for the fun of the fray. A liberal, he was annoyed by liberals; a proud Jew, he wouldn't let anyone call him a 'Jewish writer.' In short, the life of the mind was a participant sport for Paddy Chayefsky."[22]


Paddy and Susan (née Sackler) Chayefsky's son Dan was born six years after their 1949 marriage. Despite an alleged affair with Kim Novak,[15] Paddy Chayefsky remained married to Susan Chayefsky until his death.


Chayefsky died in New York City of cancer, for which he had declined surgery, in 1981, aged 58, and was interred in the Sharon Gardens Division of Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, Westchester County, New York. Bob Fosse performed a tap dance at the funeral,[23] as part of a deal he and Chayefsky had made when Fosse was in the hospital for open-heart surgery. If Fosse died first, Chayefsky promised to deliver a tedious eulogy or Fosse would dance at Chayefsky's memorial if he was the one to die first.[24] His personal papers are at the Wisconsin Historical Society and the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Billy Rose Theatre Division.[25]


Television and stage plays

Television (selection)
  • 1950–55 Danger
  • 1951–52 Manhunt
  • 1951–60 Goodyear Playhouse
  • 1952–54 Philco Television Playhouse
  • 1952 Holiday Song
  • 1952 The Reluctant Citizen
  • 1953 Printer's Measure
  • 1953 Marty
  • 1953 The Big Deal
  • 1953 The Bachelor Party
  • 1953 The Sixth Year
  • 1953 Catch My Boy On Sunday
  • 1954 The Mother
  • 1954 Middle of the Night
  • 1955 The Catered Affair
  • 1956 The Great American Hoax

Academy Awards

Year Category Film Result
1955 Best Adapted Screenplay Marty Won
1958 Best Original Screenplay The Goddess Nominated
1971 Best Original Screenplay The Hospital Won
1976 Best Original Screenplay Network Won


  1. ^ Profile,; accessed June 29, 2015.
  2. ^ IMDB
  3. ^ Rutherford, Paul.When Television Was Young. University of Toronto Press, 1990.
  4. ^ Quote re Chayefsky,; accessed June 29, 2015.
  5. ^ Thomson, David. The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, Alfred A. Knopf (2002), p. 155
  6. ^ "101 Greatest Screenplays". Writers Guild of America, West. Retrieved January 13, 2017.
  7. ^ Lowe, Rob (February 13, 2014). "Anchorman: 'Mad as Hell', by Dave Itzkoff". The New York Times. Retrieved January 13, 2017.
  8. ^ Karol, Michael (2005-12-15). THE COMIC DNA OF LUCILLE BALL: INTERPRETING THE ICON. iUniverse. ISBN 9780595823208.
  9. ^ Brady, John. The Craft of the Screenwriter. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1981.
  10. ^ 1930 United States Census
  11. ^ 1930 United States Federal Census
  12. ^ Campbell, Colin (2 August 1981). "PADDY CHAYEFSKY DEAD AT 58; PLAYWRIGHT WON THREE OSCARS". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 July 2016.
  13. ^ Dewitt Clinton High School Yearbook, 1939, p. 32, p. 44
  14. ^ a b Fisher, James (June 2011). Historical Dictionary of Contemporary American Theater: 1930-2010. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. p. 146. ISBN 978-0-8108-5532-8.
  15. ^ a b c Considine, Shaun. Mad as Hell: The Life and Work of Paddy Chayefsky, Random House (1995),; accessed June 29, 2015.
  16. ^ Frank, Sam (1986). American Screenwriters: Second Series. Detroit, Michigan: Gale. ISBN 978-0-8103-1722-2.
  17. ^ Paddy Chayefsky on IMDb
  18. ^ Internet Broadway Database; accessed June 29, 2015.
  19. ^ a b Guide to the Paddy Chayefsky Papers, 1907–1998, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, 2006 completion
  20. ^ Thompson, David. The Whole Equation: A History of Hollywood, Alfred A. Knopf (2005), p. 328
  21. ^ McDonald, Brian (2010-11-01). "A Lesson from Paddy Cheyefsky". Retrieved 2010-11-06.
  22. ^ Gottfried, Martin. All His Jazz: The Life and Death of Bob Fosse, Da Capo Press (1990) pp. 170–171
  23. ^ Teachout, Terry (1 April 2014). "Sad as Hell". Commentary Magazine. Retrieved 24 May 2018.
  24. ^ Wassson, Sam. Fosse, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2013) p. 399
  25. ^ Paddy Chayefsky papers, 1907–1998 (bulk 1952–1981), held by the Billy Rose Theatre Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

External links

Altered States

Altered States is a 1980 American science-fiction horror film directed by Ken Russell based on the novel of the same name by playwright and screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky. The film was adapted from Chayefsky's only novel and is his final screenplay. Both the novel and the film are based on John C. Lilly's sensory deprivation research conducted in isolation tanks under the influence of psychoactive drugs like mescaline, ketamine, and LSD.

It marked the film debut of William Hurt and Drew Barrymore. Chayefsky was credited as a screenwriter for the film using the pseudonym Sidney Aaron, his actual first and middle names.

The film score was composed by John Corigliano (with Christopher Keene conducting). The film was nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Original Score and Best Sound Mixing.

Gideon (play)

Gideon, a play by Paddy Chayefsky, is a seriocomic treatment of the story of Gideon, a judge in the Old Testament. The play had a successful Broadway run in 1961 and was broadcast on NBC in 1971 as a Hallmark Hall of Fame special.

Holiday Song

"Holiday Song" is the second season premiere of the TV anthology series Goodyear Playhouse. It was written by Paddy Chayefsky and helped establish his reputation in TV drama.The episode was based on a story which had appeared in Reader's Digest.

Marty (film)

Marty is a 1955 American romantic drama film directed by Delbert Mann. The screenplay was written by Paddy Chayefsky, expanding upon his 1953 teleplay of the same name. The film stars Ernest Borgnine and Betsy Blair. In addition to winning an Academy Award for Best Picture, the film enjoyed international success, becoming the fourth American film to win the Cannes Film Festival, and to be awarded the Palme d'Or. Marty and The Lost Weekend (1945) are the only two films to win both organizations' grand prizes.

Marty (teleplay)

"Marty" is a 1953 television play by Paddy Chayefsky. It was telecast live May 24, 1953, on The Philco Television Playhouse with Rod Steiger in the title role and Nancy Marchand, in her television debut, playing opposite him as Clara. Chayefsky's story of a decent, hard-working Bronx butcher, pining for the company of a woman in his life but despairing of ever finding true love in a relationship, was produced by Fred Coe with associate producer Gordon Duff.The teleplay was adapted into the feature film Marty starring Ernest Borgnine in 1955. It was directed by Delbert Mann and written by Chayefsky. The film won both the Academy Award for Best Picture and the Palme d'Or award at the Cannes Film Festival and Borgnine won the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Middle of the Night

Middle of the Night is a 1959 American drama film directed by Delbert Mann, and released by Columbia Pictures. It was entered into the 1959 Cannes Film Festival. It stars Fredric March and Kim Novak. The screenplay was adapted by Paddy Chayefsky from his Broadway play of the same name.

Network (1976 film)

Network is a 1976 American satirical film written by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Sidney Lumet, about a fictional television network, UBS, and its struggle with poor ratings. The film stars Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch, and Robert Duvall and features Wesley Addy, Ned Beatty, and Beatrice Straight.

The film won four Academy Awards, in the categories of Best Actor (Finch), Best Actress (Dunaway), Best Supporting Actress (Straight), and Best Original Screenplay (Chayefsky).

In 2000, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". In 2002, it was inducted into the Producers Guild of America Hall of Fame as a film that has "set an enduring standard for American entertainment". In 2005, the two Writers Guilds of America voted Chayefsky's script one of the 10 greatest screenplays in the history of cinema. In 2007, the film was 64th among the 100 greatest American films as chosen by the American Film Institute, a ranking slightly higher than the one AFI had given it ten years earlier.

Paint Your Wagon (film)

Paint Your Wagon is a 1969 Western musical film starring Lee Marvin, Clint Eastwood, and Jean Seberg. The film was adapted by Paddy Chayefsky from the 1951 musical Paint Your Wagon by Lerner and Loewe. It is set in a mining camp in Gold Rush-era California. It was directed by Joshua Logan.

Printer's Measure

"Printer's Measure" is an episode of the TV anthology series The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse written by Paddy Chayefsky.

It was a reworking of a story Chayefsky had written in college.The play was highly acclaimed and ended up being published in a volume of Chayefsky's work.

The Americanization of Emily

The Americanization of Emily is a 1964 American black-and-white romantic dark comedy-drama war film written by Paddy Chayefsky, produced by Martin Ransohoff, directed by Arthur Hiller, and starring James Garner, Julie Andrews, Melvyn Douglas, and James Coburn. The film also features Joyce Grenfell, Keenan Wynn, and William Windom. The screenplay by Chayefsky is loosely adapted from the novel of the same name by William Bradford Huie, who had been a SeaBee officer during the Normandy Invasion. The film is set in 1944 London during World War II in the weeks leading up to D-Day.Controversial in its own time, it has since been praised as a "vanguard anti-war film". Both Garner and Andrews have considered the film their personal favorite of those in which they acted.

The Bachelor Party

The Bachelor Party is a 1953 television play by Paddy Chayefsky which was adapted by Chayefsky for a 1957 film. The play premiered to critical acclaim.

The Catered Affair

The Catered Affair (1956), also known as Wedding Party, is a family drama film made by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It was directed by Richard Brooks and produced by Sam Zimbalist from a screenplay by Gore Vidal, based on a television play by Paddy Chayefsky. The film score was by André Previn and the cinematography by John Alton.

The film stars Bette Davis, Ernest Borgnine, Debbie Reynolds, Barry Fitzgerald and Rod Taylor. It was Taylor's first film for MGM after having been signed by the studio to a long-term contract.

The Goddess (1958 film)

The Goddess is a 1958 American drama film directed by John Cromwell and starring Kim Stanley and Lloyd Bridges.

Written by Paddy Chayefsky, the film is an in-depth character study about the life of a troubled, lonely girl who becomes a movie star, adored by millions but miserable in her private life. The movie was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

The Great American Hoax

"The Great American Hoax" is a 1957 episode of the TV series The 20th Century Fox Hour.

This was the last TV play written by Paddy Chayefsky, and was based on a story of his, filmed as As Young as You Feel (1951). It was originally going to be called The Age of Retirement.Ed Wynn was signed to play the lead in a rare non-comedy role. Filming took place in March 1957.

The Hospital

The Hospital is a 1971 satirical film directed by Arthur Hiller. It stars George C. Scott as Dr. Herbert Bock. The Hospital was written by Paddy Chayefsky, who was awarded the 1972 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Chayefsky also narrates the film and was one of the producers; he had complete control over the casting and content of the film.

The Latent Heterosexual

The Latent Heterosexual is a play by Paddy Chayefsky. The author would not permit it to be performed on Broadway.

The Mother (TV play)

"The Mother" is an episode of the TV anthology series The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse.

The episode was highly acclaimed critically.

The Passion of Josef D.

The Passion of Josef D is a play by Paddy Chayefsky based on the life of Josef Stalin. It only had a short run on Broadway in 1964 despite being directed by Chayefsky himself and featuring a cast including Luther Adler and Peter Falk. This experience scarred Chayefsky from having his plays produced on Broadway for the rest of his career. David Amram composed acappella vocal music for the play and hired two perfect pitch singers to get the ensemble started on key. Tyrone Guthrie was scheduled to direct but when he became unavailable Chayefsky decided he would direct it himself, his first and last time directing. Many years later, when asked by original cast member Robert Aberdeen if he had any un produced plays that he would consider having produced, Chayefsky replied, "Bob, I'm not interested in theater. There's no money in Theater." Jerome Robbins came in (Known as the Doctor) to try to help to no avail. David Amram said of the play, "If Guthrie and not Chayefsky had directed it, we'd still be running."

The Tenth Man (Chayefsky play)

The Tenth Man is a 1959 American play. It had 623 performances over its year-and-a-half-long Broadway run.

Works by Paddy Chayefsky
Films written
Television plays
Awards for Paddy Chayefsky

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.