Terry Southern (May 1, 1924 - October 29, 1995) was a highly influential American short story writer, novelist, essayist, screenwriter and university lecturer. He was part of the Paris postwar literary movement in the 1950s and a companion to Beat writers in Greenwich Village; he was at the center of Swinging London in the sixties and helped to change the style and substance of Hollywood films of the 1970s. In the 1980s he wrote for Saturday Night Live and lectured on screenwriting at several universities in New York.
Southern's dark and often absurdist style of broad yet biting satire helped to define the sensibilities of several generations of intelligent writers, readers, directors and filmgoers. He is credited by journalist Tom Wolfe as having invented New Journalism with the publication of "Twirling at Ole Miss" in Esquire in 1962, and his gift for writing memorable film dialogue was evident in Dr. Strangelove, The Cincinnati Kid and Easy Rider. His work on Easy Rider helped create the independent film movement of the 1970s, in opposition to Hollywood film studios.
Born in Alvarado, Texas, Southern left Southern Methodist University to serve as a Lieutenant in the US Army during World War II, returning to the States to study at Northwestern University, where he graduated with a degree in philosophy in 1948. While studying on the G.I. Bill at the Sorbonne he wrote short stories, one of which ("The Sun and the Still Born Stars") was the very first short story published in the Paris Review.
In 1958 his first novel, Flash and Filigree, was brought out by Andre Deutsch, soon followed by The Magic Christian (1960). In 1958, Candy, written by Southern in collaboration with Mason Hoffenberg, was published by Olympia Press under the pseudonym Maxwell Kenton. Southern and Beat poet Gregory Corso helped convince Olympia publisher Maurice Girodias to first publish the controversial novel Naked Lunch by then-little-known author William S. Burroughs.
On the recommendation of British actor Peter Sellers, director Stanley Kubrick asked Southern to help revise the screenplay of Dr. Strangelove (1964). Kubrick's first draft of the script was based on the novel Red Alert (1958) by Peter George. Kubrick, Southern and George shared the screenplay credits, but most of the dark and satiric dialogue was written by Southern.
During the latter half of the sixties Southern worked on the screenplays of The Loved One (1965) The Collector (1965) The Cincinnati Kid (1966) Casino Royale (1967) and Barbarella (1967). In 1968 Southern wrote the script for Easy Rider, generously sharing writing credit with Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda. The character of the small-town lawyer played by Jack Nicholson was originally written by Southern for actor Rip Torn.
Hired by Michael O'Donoghue to write for Saturday Night Live in the early 1980s, Southern taught screenwriting at New York University (NYU) and Columbia University from the late 80s until his death in 1995 at the age of 71. His final novel, Texas Summer, was published in 1992 by Richard Seaver.
In early 2003 Southern's archives of manuscripts, correspondence and photographs were acquired by the New York Public Library. The archives include correspondence and other items from George Plimpton, Allen Ginsberg, Norman Mailer, Frank O'Hara, Larry Rivers, William Styron, V. S. Pritchett, Gore Vidal, Abbie Hoffman, and Edmund Wilson, as well as John Lennon, Ringo Starr, and the Rolling Stones. Fittingly, the announcement of this acquisition was made on April 1.
1958 - Flash and Filigree
1958 - Candy (with Mason Hoffenberg)
1960 - The Magic Christian
1960 - Writers in Revolt
1965 - Journal of The Loved One (with William Claxton)
1967 - Red-Dirt Marijuana and Other Tastes
1970 - Blue Movie
1992 - Texas Summer
1964 - Dr. Strangelove (with Stanley Kubrick and Peter George) (Academy Award nomination for screenwriting)
1965 - The Loved One (with Christopher Isherwood)
1965 - The Collector (rewrite; uncredited)
1966 - The Cincinnati Kid (dialogue rewrite of Ring Lardner Jr. script)
1967 - Barbarella
1968 - Easy Rider (Academy Award nomination for screenwriting)
1969 - End Of The Road
1970 - The Magic Christian
1975 - Stop Thief! (teleplay; with William Claxton)
1986 - The Telephone (with Harry Nilsson)
The Man Who Fell to Earth (journalist at launchpad)