Alice Arlen Dies: Oscar-Nominated ‘Silkwood’ Screenwriter Was 75

Associated Press

Alice Arlen, who co-penned the Oscar-nominated 1983 social drama Silkwood with Nora Ephron, died on Monday evening at her home in Manhattan after battling a long illness. She was 75. Arlen came from one of American’s most respected journalism families and started as a freelance journalist and TV culture critic in Chicago before she began penning Hollywood screenplays.

Silkwood, which was directed by Mike Nichols and nominated for five Oscars including director, actress (Meryl Streep) and supporting actress (Cher). The film followed Karen Silkwood, a nuclear fuel recycling plant worker, who after being contaminated, turns whistleblower and suspiciously dies in a car accident.

Following Silkwood, she wrote Louis Malle’s 1985 film Alamo Bay about a Vietnam vet who is pushed to the extremes when Vietnamese immigrants encroach on his fishing career in Texas bay town. The movie was on the bigotry that went on in the town of Seadrift, Tex., from 1979 to 1981. Ephron and Arlen would team again on the 1989 Susan Seidelman gangster comedy Cookie which starred Peter Falk and Dianne Wiest. Arlen’s writing credits also include the 2000 Sean Penn journo crime drama The Weight of Water directed by Kathryn Bigelow, the 2004 PBS Robert Redford executive produced TV movie A Thief of Time and the 2007 Helen Hunt-directed dramedy Then She Found Me. 

After graduating from Radcliffe College in 1962, Arlen married James Hoge, the editor and later publisher of The Chicago Sun-Times. They had three children and were divorced in 1971. Her second marriage was to Michael J. Arlen in 1972.  Soon after, she worked as a film editor in Manhattan and began postgraduate film studies at Columbia University.

Arlen’s grandfather was Joseph Medill Patterson, who founded and published The Daily News in New York. Her great-aunt, Eleanor Medill Patterson, owned and published The Washington Times-Herald, and her aunt, Alicia Patterson, founded, published and edited the Long Island newspaper Newsday. Arlen’s mother, Josephine Patterson Albright was the Chicago Daily News’ crime reporter during the 1930s Arlen’s brother, Joseph Medill Patterson Albright, is the former husband of Madeleine K. Albright, former secretary of state under President Bill Clinton and the first woman to hold that post. Born Alice Reeve in Chicago on Nov. 6, 1940,Arlen was  one of two children of Josephine Medill Patterson and her first husband, Jay Frederick Reeve, a lawyer.

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