Childhood & Early Life
Paddy Chayefsky was born as Sidney Aaron Chayefsky on January 29, 1923, in New York City, USA, to Russian-Jewish immigrants Gussie Stuchevsky and Harry Chayefsky. He had two elder brothers, William and Winn.
His father served in the Russian army. At the time of his birth, his family lived in the West Bronx.
He studied at a public elementary school and later attended DeWitt Clinton High School. He then enrolled at the City College of New York from where he graduated in 1943.
Following his graduation, Chayefsky was drafted into the army. During his army service, he studied at Fordham University and adopted the nickname "Paddy."
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Paddy Chayefsky went to Hollywood in 1947 and found an accounting job in Universal Pictures. He began acting at the Actor's Lab and landed a minor role in the movie ‘A Double Life.’
He returned to New York and was hired as a scriptwriter by Universal just to end up being fired after six weeks.
He wrote the outline for a play and submitted it to the William Morris Agency. Its movie rights were acquired by Twentieth Century Fox, and Chayefsky returned to Hollywood in 1948. However, he quit his job and moved back to New York.
During the late 1940s, he started working on radio scripts and short stories. During this time, he served as a gag writer for radio host Robert Q. Lewis.
During 1951-52, Paddy Chayefsky wrote ‘Theater Guild on the Air: The Meanest Man in the World,’ ‘Cavalcade of America,’ ‘Tommy’ and ‘Over 21’.
He soon moved to television with scripts for ‘The Gulf Playhouse,’ ‘Danger,’ and ‘Manhunt.’ His first script to be telecast was of ‘What Makes Sammy Run?’ for the Philco Television Playhouse.
The screenwriter then wrote ‘Holiday Song’ that was telecast in the 1950s. He wrote a few more scripts for Philco, including ‘The Bachelor Party’, ‘The Big Deal’ and ‘Printer's Measure’.
In 1953, Chayefsky wrote ‘Marty’ for Philco. The play is about a hard-working and decent butcher who gets hooked with a shy schoolteacher whom he saves from the awkwardness of being abandoned by her blind date.
Following the success of ‘Marty,’ he continued to write for theater, TV and films. In May 1957, his ‘The Great American Hoax’ was broadcast during the season 2 of ‘The 20th Century Fox Hour’.
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He then wrote the plays ‘The Bachelor Party’ and ‘The Catered Affair’. While the former was viewed as artistically inferior, the latter did well in Europe but below par in the US theaters.
Paddy Chayefsky then wrote a screen adaptation of his play ‘Middle of the Night.’ The female role which was originally written for Marilyn Monroe eventually went to Kim Novak.
He next started writing the story for ‘The Goddess,’ a movie about the rise and fall of a film star resembling Monroe. The star of the film, Kim Stanley, clashed with him during the production. He served as the screenwriter as well as the producer.
In 1959, the screenwriter wrote ‘The Tenth Man’ that marked his second Broadway theatrical success and garnered him three Tony Award nominations.
Although he wished to write only original screenplays, he went on to adapt William Bradford Huie’s ‘The Americanization of Emily’ after being persuaded by producer Martin Ransohoff. The film was, however, a failure.
Paddy Chayefsky made a comeback with the film ‘The Hospital’ which was released in 1971. The film was a box office hit and earned him an Academy Award and revived his career.
A few years later, he wrote the screenplay for ‘Network', a satirical drama flick which too was a success. The movie earned four Academy Awards for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Screenplay. With ‘Network,’ Chayefsky brought home his third Academy Award.
In 1980, the science-fiction horror film ‘Altered States,’ which was based on his novel, was released. Both the film and the novel are based on American neuroscientist John Cunningham Lilly’s sensory deprivation study conducted in segregation tanks under the influence of psychoactive drugs.
Family & Personal Life
Paddy Chayefsky met his future wife, Susan, during the 1940s. They got married in 1949. Their marriage produced a son named Dan who was born in 1955.
Despite an alleged affair with actress Kim Novak, he remained married to his wife until his death. She suffered from muscular dystrophy in her later years and died in 2000.
Paddy Chayefsky contracted pleurisy in 1980 for which he opted for chemotherapy. He died in New York on 1 August 1981, at the age of 58.