Remembering the creator of “The Exorcist” William Peter Blatty on his birthday

The author and filmaker wrote the famous Horror masterpiece in 1971

Remembering the creator of “The Exorcist” William Peter Blatty on his birthday

William Peter Blatty was born on January 7, 1928, in New York City, the writer and filmmaker is best known for his 1971 novel “The Exorcist” and for the Academy Award-winning screenplay of its film adaptation. Blatty attended Brooklyn Preparatory, a Jesuit school, on a scholarship and graduated as class valedictorian in 1946. He later attended Georgetown University on a scholarship, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in English in 1950. While studying for his master’s degree at George Washington University, Blatty took menial jobs as a vacuum cleaner door-to-door salesman. He would earn his master’s in English literature from the George Washington University in 1954. Blatty published his first book, “Which Way to Mecca, Jack?” in 1960, a humorous look at both his early life and his work at the United States Information Agency in Lebanon. In 1961, while still working in public relations, Blatty appeared as a contestant on the Groucho Marx quiz show “You Bet Your Life”, winning $10,000, enough money to quit his job and to write full-time. Thereafter, he never held a regular job. In 1963 he published the comic novels: “John Goldfarb, Please Come Home!”, “I, Billy Shakespeare” 1965 and “Twinkle, Twinkle, “Killer” Kane” in 1966. In 1971, he wrote “The Exorcist”, the book details the demonic possession of twelve-year-old Regan MacNeil, the daughter of a famous actress, and the two priests who attempt to exorcise the demon. Published by Harper & Row, the novel was the basis of a highly successful film adaption released two years later, whose screenplay was also written by Blatty. Blatty went on to win an Academy Award for his Exorcist screenplay, as well as Golden Globes for Best Picture and Best Writing. It also became the first horror film ever to be nominated for the best picture Oscar. In 1980 he wrote, directed, and produced a film version, of his 1978 novel “Twinkle, Twinkle, “Killer” Kane” into a film titled “The Ninth Configuration”. The film would go no to be nominated for three Golden Globes and won the Best Writing Award. In 1983, Blatty wrote “Legion”, a sequel to “The Exorcist” which later became the basis of the film “The Exorcist III”. Blatty passed away on January 12, 2017, at a hospital in Bethesda, Maryland five days after his 89th birthday.

By Ken Warren, 2017/18

Watch a 2011 interview with William Peter Blatty

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