Frank De Felitta, who adapted his own horror novel for 1977’s Audrey Rose, died Tuesday in Los Angeles at age 94. The death was confirmed by his son, Madoff director Raymond De Felitta.
Audrey Rose, which along with The Exorcist and The Omen formed the decade’s unholy trinity of scary-child pics, starred Anthony Hopkins and Marsha Mason, with Robert Wise directing from De Felitta’s screenplay. Like the novel, the film told the eerie story of a little girl who might be the reincarnation of another child.
More recently, the De Felittas collaborated on a powerful documentary that revisited a real-life horror: Booker’s Place: A Mississippi Story, directed by Raymond De Felitta in 2012, recounted Frank’s consequential 1965 NBC documentary Mississippi: A Self Portrait, in which the director interviewed black and white residents of rural Mississippi. One of the interviewees was a black waiter named Booker Wright, who spoke on camera about his mistreatment by white customers. After the report aired, Wright was harrassed until he quit his job, later opening a restaurant for black patrons, suffering a savage beating at the hands of a local police officer and eventually losing his business in a firebombing. (Wright was later murdered in an apparently unrelated incident).
In the 2012 Booker’s Place, Raymond De Felitta chronicled the impact of his father’s documentary, interviewing Wright’s surviving family members as well as his father Frank, who spoke of his lifelong feelings of guilt over the incident. Booker’s Place, which was co-produced by Wright’s granddaughter Yvette Johnson, premiered at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival. The film has a 100% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Frank De Felitta was born August 3, 1921 in New York City, and started his writing career for the radio thriller The Whistler before moving on to television anthology series and news programs. Other film credits include The Entity (1982) and Scissors (1991), which he wrote and produced, as he did with Audrey Rose.