Herman Wouk, who authored books that became legendary films and TV programs including The Caine Mutiny and The Winds of War, died today in his sleep in Palm Springs, the Associated Press reports. He was 103.
Wouk published about a dozen novels and a handful of plays and nonfiction books during a 70-year career, and many became landmark screen adaptations. His World War II novel The Winds of War hit bookstores in 1971 and was followed by the 1978 sequel War and Remembrance. Both were turned into smash ABC miniseries — with Winds of War airing in 1983 and War and Remembrance in 1988. Both starred Robert Mitchum as Capt. Victor “Pug” Henry and earned multiple Emmys.
Born on May 27, 1915 in the Bronx, Wouk — like so many other young Americans — join the Armed Forces after Pearl Harbor, serving in the Navy. He began writing while off watch aboard ship. And his best-known works chronicled seaman during the Allies’ battle against the Axis.
Wouk also wrote Marjorie Morningstar (1958), which Warner Bros. adapted for the big screen starring Natalie Wood, and the screenplay for Slattery’s Hurricane (1949), which starred Richard Widmark, Linda Darnell and Veronica Lake. Wouk later published a novel based on his screenplay.
The Caine Mutiny was published in 1951 and became the 1954 film starring Humphrey Bogart, Jose Ferrer, Van Johnson and Fred MacMurray. The World War II naval drama told the story of an uprising on titular fictional minesweeper and the ensuing court-martial. The movie scored seven Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Bogart’s final Academy Award now for Best Actor.
Wouk also adapted the novel for a 1954 Broadway show called The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, whose original production starred Lloyd Nolan and Henry Fonda. It was revived on the Main Stem briefly in 1983 and again in 2006.
His first post-Caine novel was Marjorie Morningstar, whose movie take starred Wood opposite Gene Kelly.
Wouk’s greatest small-screen success came in the 1980s, during the glory days of the TV miniseries. Spanning the era from the lead-up to Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Poland to shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, The Winds of War was a phenomenon in 1983. It dominated the February sweep with a 15-hour story that unfolded over seven installment in eight nights. It averaged an eye-popping 80 million viewers per night and a 54 share.
Co-starring Ali MacGraw, Jan-Michael Vincent and John Houseman, the mini won three Emmys among 13 nomination but lost the marquee prize to The Thorn Birds that year.
ABC would strike ratings and Emmy gold again seven years later with War and Remembrance. Mitchum again starred, this time opposite Jane Seymour and Hart Bochner, in the story that followed the war in Europe and the Pacific through its end in August 1945. The sequel earned 15 Emmy noms and won nine including Outstanding Miniseries.