Thursday, March 5, 2009

Horton Foote — 1916-2009

Horton Foote, the man who made The Trip to Bountiful and put Atticus Finch on the screen in To Kill a Mockingbird has died.

In screenplays for movies like “Tender Mercies,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Trip to Bountiful,” and in plays like “The Young Man From Atlanta” and “The Carpetbagger’s Children,” Mr. Foote depicted the way ordinary people shoulder the ordinary burdens of life, finding drama in the resilience by which they carry on in the face of change, economic hardship, disappointment, loss and death.

Robert Duvall, an actor who was one of Mr. Foote’s most frequent interpreters, making his screen debut in “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962) and winning an Oscar for best actor in “Tender Mercies” (1983), said on Wednesday that “Horton was the great American voice.” He added, “His work was native to his own region, but it was also universal.”

Mr. Foote was honored at the William Inge Festival in 1989, and he is remembered as gentle and friendly presence who told stories about his life that wove themselves into his visions on the stage, and showed us that there is great truth and beauty in the lives of ordinary people.