Skip to comments.Lewis John Carlino, Writer and Director of 'The Great Santini,' Dies at 88
Posted on 06/23/2020 5:55:13 PM PDT by Borges
He earned an Oscar nom for 'I Never Promised You a Rose Garden' and also penned 'Seconds' and the original 'The Mechanic.'
Lewis John Carlino, who wrote and directed The Great Santini, the film adaptation of Pat Conroy's autobiographical novel that starred Robert Duvall as a bullying U.S. Marine Corps pilot, has died. He was 88.
Carlino died Wednesday at his home on Whidbey Island in Washington state of myelodysplastic syndrome, a blood disease, his daughter, Alessa, told The Hollywood Reporter.
Carlino also adapted David Ely's novel for John Frankenheimer's paranoid sci-fi drama Seconds (1966), starring Rock Hudson; reworked Yukio Mishima's book for the intense The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea (1976) he also directed the Kris Kristofferson starrer and recast Joanne Greenberg's novel for I Never Promised You a Rose Garden (1977), earning an Oscar nomination (shared with Gavin Lambert) in the process.
Carlino was adept at the original screenplay as well, writing The Brotherhood (1968), a pre-Godfather Mafia film starring Kirk Douglas; The Mechanic (1972), with Charles Bronson as a cold-blooded professional assassin and Jan-Michael Vincent as his protege; and Resurrection (1980), starring Oscar nominee Ellen Burstyn as a woman who attains mysterious healing powers.
Carlino displayed a fascination with crime and its effects during his career.
"You know, everybody talks about gangsters, crime and stuff like that. But, as a writer, I'm really curious [about] what goes on in somebody's mind," he said in a 2011 interview about The Mechanic. "You can talk about the act in the abstract, but when you deal with it in actuality, how does a person make that adjustment in their mind and go home at night and play with his kids and be with his wife?
"That curiosity, as a writer, led me to do a lot of research on killers and their methods, that sort of thing. I thought it would be really interesting to do a character that, because of the work he does, is locked in such isolation that he's desperate for a relationship."
Carlino received the last of his three career WGA nominations for his work on The Great Santini (1979). Duvall, as Lt. Col. Wilbur "Bull" Meechum, and Michael O'Keefe, as his tortured son Ben, were given Oscar noms but lost out to Robert De Niro of Raging Bull and Timothy Hutton of Ordinary People, respectively.
Lewis John Carlino, the son of an immigrant Sicilian tailor and a homemaker, was born in Queens on New Year's Day in 1932. He and his family moved to California, where he graduated from high school and enrolled at El Camino College.
In 1951, Carlino enlisted in the Air Force and served for four years during the Korean War. After his discharge, he used the G.I. Bill to enroll at the University of Southern California, where he studied drama. He graduated in 1958, then earned his master's in theater from the school two years later.
At USC, Carlino penned several one-act plays, including The Brick and the Rose, which was produced by the American National Theatre and Academy in 1957. It went on to become the first presentation of the CBS Television Workshop, an anthology series, in 1960.
Carlino traveled the world "to let the ideas cook," as he once noted, before settling in New York, where he taught at Columbia University and continued to write plays. Two of his one-acts, Snowangel and Epiphany, made it to off-Broadway in 1963 as part of a double bill that was titled Cages and starred Shelley Winters and Jack Warden.
As Cages enjoyed a run of 176 performances at the New York Playhouse, Carlino also had success with two other off-Broadway productions, the Hollywood-set Telemachus Clay: A Collage of Voices and Doubletalk, starring Franchot Tone and Ruth White. (His full-length drama The Exercise, starring Anne Jackson, would have a short run on Broadway in 1968.)
The sinister Seconds, which played In Competition at the Cannes Film Festival, revolved around unhappy middle-aged banker Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph), who signs up with a clandestine corporation that will transform him into a handsome new person (Hudson).
Frankenheimer reportedly abandoned Carlino's happy ending which brought Hamilton back to his original family and instead made the character a victim of the dark company.
Carlino had worked with director Monte Hellman on developing Chartoff-Winkler Productions' The Mechanic from his then-unpublished novel before the project changed studios and Michael Winner was hired at United Artists. (The action movie famously opens with a 16-minute dialogue-free set piece.)
Carlino's characters were then revived for the 2011 and 2016 Mechanic reboots that starred Jason Statham.
I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, produced by Roger Corman in one of his more expensive endeavors, starred Kathleen Quinlan as a young woman who lands in a mental institution following a suicide attempt.
Carlino spent about a week in Burstyn's home in New York after she had the idea for Resurrection, then produced the script for the movie in about three weeks. The actress portrays a woman who finds herself with divine abilities after she survives a car crash that killed her husband.
"I loved it, and it has had a lot of meaning for a lot of people because it deals with death a lot and the passing over to the other side and the experiences of some of the people I had read about who had had near-death experiences," Burstyn said in a 2000 interview with The Guardian.
"So many people have written and told me how they have been with their parents and helped them cross over because of Resurrection. And that's pleased me very deeply."
Carlino also wrote the screenplays for The Fox (1967), A Reflection of Fear (1972), Crazy Joe (1974) and Haunted Summer (1988) and directed the sex comedy Class (1983), starring Jacqueline Bisset, Andrew McCarthy and Rob Lowe.
For television, he penned a 1963 episode of the famed CBS series Route 66; co-created the 1973-74 ABC drama Doc Elliot, featuring James Franciscus; and adapted a Gay Talese crime story for a 1973 CBS telefilm, Honor Thy Father, which starred Joseph Bologna.
Upon moving to Whidbey Island in 1996, Carlino returned to his theatrical roots and was instrumental in the launch of the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts. He directed several original productions, and his most recent work, the play Visible Grace, is in development.
In addition to his daughter, survivors include his grandson, Duncan, and great-granddaughter, June. His second wife, Jilly, died in 2015.
Should be 6/23/20
Having grown up in a military family, I always found much of interest in that movie.
At the time, it was hard and the moving around ALL the time is tough (even if it does have its upside even then) but I wouldn’t trade it in for any other life.
And I am a huge Robert Duvall fan. Love his acting, hands down my favorite actor. The last movie I saw him in was an interesting one “The Apostle”. Funny, I can’t say for some reason if the movie was good or bad (because I am so biased) but I thought about it for a while after I saw it, so there was something to it for me.
[[[And I am a huge Robert Duvall fan. Love his acting, hands down my favorite actor. The last movie I saw him in was an interesting one The Apostle. Funny, I cant say for some reason if the movie was good or bad (because I am so biased) but I thought about it for a while after I saw it, so there was something to it for me.]]]
“I laughed, I cried, It became a part of me”
Robert Duvall is the greatest American actor of the late twentieth century - better then DeNiro or Pacino.
By the way, he is the son of a career military man. His father made admiral in the USN.
I am also a military “brat”. Went to 11 different schools in 13 years. The main downside is not having any life-long friends.
My dad was in the U.S. Navy. We moved from Pensacola to Oak Harbor, WA, at the north end of Whidbey Island, between my Junior and Senior year of high school. Even though I only went to one year of school there, my widowed mom still lives there, I have always considered it to be my hometown.
Whidbey Island is beautiful. Deception Pass State Park is one of the most beautiful and visited state parks in the country.
My dad’s last duty station before he retired was at Naval Communications Station Cheltenham, MD about one or two miles from Andrews AFB.
While there (we had six kids in our family) moved in across the street from an officer who had five kids...we all became pretty good friends with them on that sleepy little base...and they would tell me stories about their last duty station out in Washington State...I remember them telling me they would jig for salmon, and I had no idea what that meant...:)
They apparently loved it up there.
Sigh. So many stories about them. They were batshit crazy. Four boys and one girl in their family, and we were all pretty much the same ages. I was a follower in those days and got into trouble with them a few times. My dad was the XO, and on at least two of them, I can only imagine less anger and more perplexity. Their father was a mean guy, mistreated them, drank, and was kind of scary looking. He had a problem with alcohol and had been a boxer, and with his shaved head at that time (not as common as it is today) and square, overhanging brow that always seems furrowed with anger...all the time, he was intimidating.
I was over at their house one day while his dad was at work and his mother was gone, and the youngest son Mike had lit up one of his dad’s cigars as we were on the four season porch playing darts (I was fourteen and he was thirteen)
He had the cigar in his hand, gesturing it around and speaking in a voice I took to be a mocking imitation of his dad (who none of us ever heard speak) while I threw darts at a board hung on the back of the door to the outside.
There were curtains, so you couldn’t see someone coming.
Suddenly, the door opened just as I threw a dart, and it hit his father on the pate of his bald head. (Disclaimer: I swear this is what happened. But to be honest...I don’t know if really happened that way or my 14 year old brain just reconstructed it that way.
It reminded me of a few years back when I went to the big air show in Oshkosh, WI, and my buddy and I met an Australian guy who was a fervent fan of the F-111 aircraft which the Aussies apparently put to good use. Anyway, he was telling us what a certain area of Australia was like, and he said “Well, if you go down out there, if the crocs don’t get you, the bloody aboriginals will!”
Later, we roared with laughter recalling this guy who was an awesome stereotype of an Aussie for us Americans, in the retelling of the story, we realized that neither of us could remember if he actually said the word “bloody”, but..we both “heard” it, even if he didn’t say it. Which only had the effect of making it seem even funnier!
Anyway, what I was trying to say is, my brain swears to me that dart hit him in the forehead, and without batting an eye he plucked it right out as he glowered and advanced towards his stogie smoking son with ill intent.
I did not stick around. The last thing I saw as I darted out the door (his father had unexpectedly entered through) was Mike, cigar clutched between a thumb and his index and forefinger right about face level with the lit end stick up at a 45 degree angle as he pranced over the threshold towards the interior of the house. His menacing father, hot on his trail, had grabbed a handful of his shirt...his meaty fist with the shirt clenched in it and Mike, about a foot’s worth of stretched shirt between them running away.
I heard yelling and screaming from the house even as I got further away.
Another time, all the neighborhood teenagers on the small base had snuck outside to meet around 0300, and there were five or ten of us gathering under that streetlight on that warm summer morning.
All of a sudden, into the cone of light under this streetlight marched his father with a nine-iron in his fist. He said “Where’s Tom?” Everyone was too stunned to speak, and he turned on his heel and disappeared into the night. He later told us his father had beat him with that nine-iron.
His father was a bad character, and his sons, well, they all had the Devil in them. All of them. I did too, but on my own wouldn’t have done anything, but...I was a happy follower in those days. His family was fractured and dysfunctional.
I got a chance to see Tom. (He was my older brother’s age) some years later when he came out from California to visit us in New England for a few days. He has a bit of the hippie look to him these days, long stringy hair, longer fingernails for his guitar.
He said his family had healed. His father had kicked alcohol (like mine had late in life) and they somehow found a way to get past all that stuff in their youth...that they all. had a great relationship with their father who we had all found so terrifying.
I can’t tell you how good that made me feel...:)
DeNiro is stone dead to me. Stone dead. Won’t watch anything if I know he is in it.
One of my all time favorite movie scenes with Pacino (no, not Scarface...not really a fan of that much) was the tango scene from “Scent of A Woman”.
I think that is one of the best scenes from any movie...ever.
And other things-the constant packing and unpacking...one of the things that broke my 11 year old heart was in moving from Yokosuka to Subic, I had gotten a real pair of binoculars for Christmas, wore them around...:)
When we moved and I packed them away, well, they never arrived in the Philippines. For the next four years or so, every time I saw an unpacked box somewhere (there were alway a few somewhere) I would root around in it looking for those binoculars.
Kind of like what happened with my Dad's Holy Cross ring. The ring he had whacked us on the back of the heads with all those years...when my dad passed, I wore the ring to his service down in Arlington, and...somewhere...somehow...that ring disappeared.
To this day, I will pause when I see some small container or a coat I haven't worn in a while, and for a split second I fight the urge to open the container or stick my hand in that coat pocket, even though I have checked it forty times in the last twenty years...
I have all my dad's stuff, I wish I did have that ring, though. I just fixed this plaque (given to my dad when he retired) which was completely tarnished and the wood in disrepair. Somewhere over the years, my younger brother had used by Dad's sword in a school play and lost the scabbard, so...I printed one on my 3D printer! I didn't want to pay for a new one! Here is what it looks like now:
Probably my favorite movie scene:
From the movie:
Bull talking to Toomer, “How’s it goin’, Sports Fan?”
Toomer was dead in the station wagon ...
Duvall used to own a little restaurant out in the countryside in Virginia, near his vast horse farm. One of my friends and I used to go there just so we could stare at his back as he dined sith his wife and friends, as he sat face to the window and back to the room. (Polite Virginians dont bug the guy for autographs while hes trying to eat.)
Tender Mercies, Something to Talk About, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Godfather 1& 2 and a beautiful film he wrote and directed, Get Low, are among my favorites, and also another one whose name escapes me that he also wrote, in which he plays a white southern bigot who discovers that he is part black, and James Earl Jones is his brother.
He adores this country and has long depicted the nuances of racial and ethnic relationships with unparalleled character development.
But we digress from the subject ar hand, The Great Santini, and the can of mushroom soup scene! Epic!
Re your story above about the hard-drinking officer neighbor of your childhood and his kids, the fight scene in Santini must have really resonated with you. Its a miracle that family was able to heal.
That restoration is amazing!
I have had that now for about 15 years, and my eyes fall on it every day and I said “Ah...ah...I GOTTA fix that thing!”
That emblem on the front is made of heavy brass, and boy, was it hard. I did the best I could, soaking it in tomato paste overnight (which worked) because using brasso just wasn’t!
The black square thing it is mounted on took 19 hours to print on my 3D printer, but...fit like a glove! Far better than the crappy wooden thing on there before...:)
I am glad I have it. It reminds me of The Commander.
That movie really did resonate with me. There was something...like when they moved into the new quarters which were dirty and dilapidated...you have to make it home, everyone finds a room...you start a new life in a new place...
It felt genuine to me.
Funny, I have been afraid to delve into Duvall’s private life, because I was worried I would find out he was a leftist turd and I wouldn’t enjoy him anymore (which is what happened for me with actors like DeNiro and Samuel Jackson.
Glad to hear he is a religious man and a patriot! Thank you...:)
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