Oscar-Nominated ‘Tootsie’ Screenwriter Was 93 – Deadline

Murray Schisgal, whose writing brought a 1964 Tony Award nomination for the Broadway play Luv and a 1982 Oscar nomination for the hit Dustin Hoffman comedy Tootsie, died Oct. 1 at a nursing home in Port Chester, New York. He was 93.

His death was announced by his son Zach Schisgal. A cause of death was not disclosed.

Schisgal, a Brooklyn native, first came to public notice in 1963 with the popular Off Broadway plays The Typists and The Tiger. Two years later his Broadway debut, the absurdist hit comedy Luv, was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play and for Best Author of a Play. Directed by Mike Nichols, Luv starred Eli Wallach, Ann Jackson and Alan Arkin.

A 1967 film version of Luv, starring Jack Lemmon, Elaine May and Peter Falk, directed by Clive Donner, was largely ignored, as was 1967’s The Tiger Makes Out, the film version of Schisgal’s play The Tiger starring Wallach and Jackson, directed by Arthur Hiller.

A more lasting impact on Hollywood came for Schisgal with Tootsie, starring Hoffman as a struggling New York actor who pretends to be a woman in order to land a big soap opera role. Schisgal and Hoffman had previously worked together on the 1968 Broadway play Jimmy Shine.

The project that would become Tootsie had been kicking around for a decade in various forms, first as a script by Don McGuire called Would I Lie To You? Subsequent drafts would be written by Robert Kaufman, Schisgal, and, finally, Larry Gelbart, with uncredited contributions from Elaine May and Barry Levinson. Only Schisgal and Gelbart received final credit on the finished script, with McGuire and Gelbart receiving a story credit. Schisgal, Gelbart and McGuire were nominated for the screenplay Oscar.

The film was a smash hit, earning 10 Oscar nominations (only Jessica Lange won, for Best Supporting Actress).

The Tootsie screenplay was the basis for the 2019 Tony-nominated Broadway musical adaptation, though the original writers had played no direct role in the musical’s development. Writer Robert Horn wrote the musical’s book.

Schisgal is survived by son Zach, daughter Jane Schisgal; a sister and four grandchildren. His wife died in 2017.

 

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