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Ira Levin

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Ira Levin

Ira Levin
Born (1929-08-27)August 27, 1929
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died November 12, 2007(2007-11-12) (aged 78)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Nationality American
Period 1953–1997
Spouse Gabriellle Aronsohn (1960-1968; divorced; 3 children)
Phyllis Sugarman (1979-1981; divorced)

Ira Marvin Levin (August 27, 1929–  November 12, 2007)[1] was an American novelist, playwright, and songwriter, best-known for the 1968 novel Rosemary's Baby and the play Deathtrap. Five of his novels and three of his plays have been adapted to film.

Early life

Ira Levin was born in Manhattan, New York City, on 27 August 1929, and grew up in Manhattan and the Bronx.[1] His father, Charles, was a toy importer. Levin was educated at the Horace Mann School in New York. He attended Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa from 1946 to 1948, and then New York University, where he majored in philosophy and English, and from where he graduated in 1950. He served in the Army Signal Corps from 1953 to 1955.

Professional life


After college, Levin wrote training films and scripts for radio and television. The first of these was "Leda’s Portrait", for Lights Out in 1951.

Levin's first produced play was No Time for Sergeants (adapted from the Mac Hyman novel), a comedy about a hillbilly drafted into the United States Air Force that launched the career of Andy Griffith. The play was turned into a movie in 1958, and co-starred Nick Adams., later developed into a 1964 television comedy series starring Sammy Jackson. No Time for Sergeants is generally considered the precursor to Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C..[2]

Levin's best-known play is Deathtrap, which holds the record as the longest-running comedy-thriller on Broadway and brought Levin his second Edgar Award. In 1982, it was made into a film starring Christopher Reeve and Michael Caine.


Levin's first novel, A Kiss Before Dying, was well received, earning him the 1954 Edgar Award for Best First Novel. A Kiss Before Dying was turned into a movie twice, first in 1956 and again in 1991.

Levin's best-known novel is Rosemary's Baby, a horror story of modern day Satanism and other occultisms, set in Manhattan's Upper West Side. In 1968, it was made into a film starring Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes. Ruth Gordon won an Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance. Roman Polanski, who wrote and directed the film, was nominated for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium. Levin said in 2002, “I feel guilty that ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ led to ‘The Exorcist,’ ‘The Omen,’ A whole generation has been exposed, has more belief in Satan. I don’t believe in Satan. And I feel that the strong fundamentalism we have would not be as strong if there hadn’t been so many of these books [...] Of course, I didn’t send back any of the royalty checks.”[1]

Other Levin novels that were made into films included The Boys from Brazil in 1978, and The Stepford Wives in 1975[3] and again in 2004.[4]

In the 1990s, Levin wrote two more bestselling novels: Sliver (1991) which became a film in 1993 by Phillip Noyce, with Sharon Stone, William Baldwin and Tom Berenger; and Son of Rosemary (1997), the sequel to Rosemary's Baby.

Stephen King has described Ira Levin as "the Swiss watchmaker of suspense novels, he makes what the rest of us do look like cheap watchmakers in drugstores." Chuck Palahniuk, in Stranger than Fiction: True Stories, calls Levin's writing "a smart, updated version of the kind of folksy legends that cultures have always used."

Personal life

Levin was married and divorced twice, first to Gabrielle Aronsohn, then to Phyllis Sugarman, and had three sons, Adam, Jared, and Nicholas (from the first marriage), as well as four grandchildren.[1]


Ira Levin died from a heart attack at his home in Manhattan, on 12 November 2007.[1][5]





Film adaptations


  1. ^ a b c d e
  2. ^ Hugh Ruppersburg, The New Georgia Encyclopedia Companion to Georgia Literature, page 220 (University of Georgia Press, 2007). ISBN 978-0-8203-2876-8
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^

Further reading

  • John Grant, "Levin, Ira (Marvin)", in David Pringle, ed., St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost and Gothic Writers. London: St. James Press, 1998, ISBN 1558622063

External links

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