Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Oscar-winning screenwriter and acclaimed novelist, died today at her home in New York City. She was 85. Jhabvala collaborated with producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory on more than 20 films over a 40-year period until Merchant’s death in 2005. It was with the Merchant/Ivory team that she won Oscars in 1987 and 1993 for her screenplays of A Room With A View and Howards End, both adapted from Edwardian-era novels by E.M. Forster. Her other movie credits include The Remains Of The Day, for which she received a third screenwriting Academy Award nomination, Roseland and Mr. And Mrs. Bridge. Her most controversial work was her original screenplay for 1995’s Jefferson In Paris. Nick Nolte played Thomas Jefferson as an envoy to France in the 1780s in the film which depicted a long-rumored love affair between Jefferson and his young slave, Sally Hemings. “Jefferson was a lonely widower, and in Paris he was very homesick,” she told the Guardian in 1995. “Sally was his wife’s half sister … it would almost have been strange if something had not happened.” Her novel Heat And Dust, a romance about a young woman living in India in the 1920s, won Britain’s Booker Prize in 1975, and was adapted for the big screen in 1983. Jhabvala most recently penned the screenplay for 2009’s The City Of Your Final Destination, about a graduate student’s journey through South America.
R.I.P. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
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