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Gentleman Tough Guy

 

"I picked you for the job, not because I think you're so darn smart, but because I thought you were a shade less dumb than the rest of the outfit. Guess I was wrong. You're not smarter, Walter... you're just a little taller. "

Double Indemnity

Niven Busch Obituary
The Daily Telegraph, London UK, 8/28/91

Niven Busch - image

Niven Busch, the American novelist and screenwriter who has died in San Francisco aged 88, wrote a number of Western yarns with pretentious psychological trimmings, such as Duel in the Sun (1944) and The Furies (1950), both of which were made into films.

His books featured such favorite American stereo-types as the ruthless robber baron and the beautiful adventuress, as well as a host of other characters, uniformly lustful and treacherous.

Busch also wrote a number of screenplays, and won early acclaim in 1937 for In Old Chicago, a marginally factual account of events leading up to the great Chicago fire.

His other screenplays included The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), which proved a pale shadow of Double Indemnity and was recently remade with Jack Nicholson and Jessica Lange.

But the author took a dim view of working for Hollywood, once observing n an interview: "Screenplays are all right as long as you stay pretty detached but they're a crap game artistically – you're dealing with 132 departments at the studio and anyone of them can goof. If you're a novelist however, you're everything from wardrobe chief to cameraman and you don't have to worry about other people messing up your story."

Niven Busch was born in New York in 1903, and educated at Princeton University. He worked as a writer and editor on Time Magazine and The New Yorker before moving to Hollywood in 1931.

There he proved extraordinarily prolific. His novels include California Street, The Carrington Incident, The Hate Merchants, and The Gentleman from California, a fictional account of Richard Nixon's career.

Busch also adapted other people's work for the screen, notably Moss Rose (1947), about a Victorian chorus girl and her aristocratic and murderous admirer.

In his later years he taught at University of California campuses at Irvine, San Diego and Berkeley and always claimed not to miss the glamour of Hollywood.

Busch was married several time. In 1942 he married Teresa Wright - who costarred with Gary Cooper in Duel in the Sun.

He is survived by his present wife, Suzanne, and seven children.