Sidney Sheldon garnered international praise and recognition in four diverse fields. The winner of an Oscar® and a Tony®, Sheldon had over 200 television scripts, twenty-five major motion pictures, six Broadway plays, eighteen novels (which have sold over 300 million copies) and a memoir, THE OTHER SIDE OF ME, to his credit, ranking him as one of the world's most prolific writers.
Each of Sheldon's books hit #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and have been distributed in more than 180 countries in 51 languages. These include Russian, Turkish, Hungarian, Chinese, Japanese, Dutch, Portuguese, Korean, Hebrew, Greek and Indonesian. Sheldon was one of the few major authors to have most of his novels filmed as major motion pictures or blockbuster miniseries for television.
A master storyteller, Sheldon regarded his becoming a writer as something of a miracle. "I was born in Chicago during the Depression and both my parents were third grade drop-outs," he recalled. "My father never read a book in his life and I was the only one in the family to complete high school."
Sheldon's talent was first recognized when he worked in the checkroom at the Bismarck Hotel. He gave the orchestra leader, Phil Levant, a song he had written. Levant liked it, made an arrangement for it, and for many nights thereafter, Sheldon would hear his song being played while he checked hats and coats.
Deciding he wanted to be a screenwriter, Sheldon left for Los Angeles at age seventeen, promising his parents he would return in three weeks if he had not found a job. Going to the gates at each of the major studios, Sheldon asked whom he should see about becoming a writer. The guards all told him the same thing, "You don't see anybody."
Hearing that busy producers often needed script readers, Sheldon wrote and submitted a synopsis of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men to all the studios. He heard back from all of them within three days. Sheldon went to work for Universal Studios as a reader for $17 a week. While there, Sheldon and a collaborator, Ben Roberts, worked on their own original stories in their spare time, eventually writing a number of "B" pictures for Republic Studios.
Joining the Air Force during World War II, Sheldon earned his pilot's wings. Upon his discharge, he began to write for Broadway, and at age 25 had three musical hits simultaneously playing on the Great White Way — the revised Merry Widow, Jackpot and Dream with Music. Next came Alice in Arms starring Kirk Douglas in his first Broadway appearance, and later, Redhead with Gwen Verdon, for which Sheldon won a Tony Award®.
Returning to Hollywood, Sheldon established a tremendous track record over the next 12 years as a successful screenwriter at both MGM studios and Paramount Pictures. Winning an Academy Award® for The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer starring Cary Grant, he also wrote 25 films including Easter Parade with Judy Garland and Fred Astaire, Annie Get Your Gun, Jumbo, and Anything Goes with Bing Crosby.
After leaving MGM as a writer/director/producer, Sheldon became involved in the fledgling television industry when ABC asked him to create a show for a young actress named Patty Duke. The end result was The Patty Duke Show for which he wrote an unprecedented 78 scripts over two years. He then created, wrote, and produced the smash hit series, I Dream of Jeannie and at one point was turning out two scripts a day when the two shows' schedules overlapped during the 1965-66 season. Jeannie brought Sheldon an Emmy® nomination for Outstanding Writing Achievement in Comedy and ran on NBC for five years. He also created the extremely popular series, Hart to Hart.
Making the switch from screenwriter to author, Sheldon's first novel, THE NAKED FACE was sold to William Morrow after being turned down by five different publishers. A critical success, it was described by the New York Times as "the best mystery novel of the year," and earned him an Edgar®. His second novel, THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT was a huge hit and firmly established him as a best-selling author. Each of his successive novels, A STRANGER IN THE MIRROR, BLOODLINE, RAGE OF ANGELS, MASTER OF THE GAME, IF TOMORROW COMES, WINDMILLS OF THE GODS, THE SANDS OF TIME, MEMORIES OF MIDNIGHT, THE DOOMSDAY CONSPIRACY, THE STARS SHINE DOWN, NOTHING LASTS FOREVER, MORNING, NOON & NIGHT, THE BEST LAID PLANS, TELL ME YOUR DREAMS, THE SKY IS FALLING and ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK? have been megasellers in both hardcover and paperback. He also wrote a memoir, THE OTHER SIDE OF ME.
During the 30-plus years that Sheldon dominated bestseller charts, his books were banned, burned, his books have been banned, burned and branded as "immoral" by such extremists as the Reverend Jerry Falwell and the Reverend Tom Williams and their supporters. Sheldon was an avid crusader against all forms of censorship and has been a strong advocate for freedom of the press.
A national spokesperson for the Freedom to Read Foundation, Sheldon Sheldon also launched student newspapers at Erasmus Hall, a Brooklyn high school, and Theodore Roosevelt High School in the Bronx. He was a major contributor to and active participant in charities related to literacy and helping the homeless. He was also the past National Spokesman for Libraries For the Future.
In 1985, Sheldon suffered the passing of his first wife of over three decades, Jorja Sheldon. A prominent interior decorator whose works were featured in top design magazines, she had enjoyed a major stage and film acting career prior to marrying Sheldon.
Their only child, Mary, a graduate of Wellesley College, has followed her father's footsteps into the literary world. A published poet at age eight, her first novel, Perhaps I'll Dream of Darkness, was published by Random House and won the Brandeis University Library Association Award. Her latest novels, published by Kensington Press, are: Halfway Home, Reflection and Pandora Brown.
Mary's two daughters are also writers. Lizy, a junior at Wellesley, published her first novel, December First, at the age of sixteen, and nine-year-old Rebecca is hard at work on her first opus, The Adventures of Cutie the Space Kitten.
In 1989, Sheldon married Alexandra Kostoff, a former child actress and advertising executive. Currently, Alexandra is the President of the board of directors of Bighorn Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of the world's wild sheep through research and education. Mrs. Sheldon helped her husband in his extensive research, which took them to countries all over the world. The Sheldons divided much of their time between their homes in Palm Springs and Los Angeles.
Sidney Sheldon passed away on January 30, 2007. His wife, Alexandra, was by his side.
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