Elmore Leonard, the prolific writer behind many classic crime and western novels, passed away this morning at the age of 87, his researcher confirmed through the author’s Facebook page. He died from complications from a stroke he suffered earlier this month.
As beloved of an author as Leonard was, he was also very well known for the films and television shows that spun off from his original stories. In honor of his passing, we’ve taken a look at some of Leonard’s most memorable works.
“3:10 to Yuma”
Before skyrocketing into popularity thanks to his crime fiction, Leonard got his start selling stories, usually westerns, to pulp magazines. “3:10 to Yuma,” his 1953 short story about a ranger who volunteers to deliver an outlaw to the train that will take him to prison became two well-received film adaptations. The first starred Glenn Ford and Van Heflin and is considered a classic of the genre. A more recent movie version starred Christian Bale as the rancher Dan Evans and Russell Crowe as the charming and deadly Ben Wade.
Another of Leonard’s westerns became a 1967 hit film starring one of the era’s biggest stars, Paul Newman as a Native American-raised man of few words, who looks down on the “civilized” and bigoted ways of his fellow stagecoach passengers after a gang robs them. The story had a strong undercurrent about the hypocrisies of the average citizen and the mistreatment of the Native Americans, something largely unseen in westerns up until that point.
Leonard saw resurgence in popularity during the 1990s thanks to three high-profile film adaptations of his crime novels. The first, 1995’s “Get Shorty,” starred John Travolta shortly after “Pulp Fiction” revitalized his career. He starred as Chili Palmer, a loan shark working for the mob and collecting their debts for them. When his business takes him to Hollywood, he quickly realizes how cutthroat the movie business can be. “Get Shorty” also starred Gene Hackman, Rene Russo and Danny DeVito.
Leonard’s books and the films made from them had a large impact on a young Quentin Tarantino, so much so that when he was a young screenwriter trying to make his first movie, “Reservoir Dogs,” he sold a script called “True Romance,” which was heavily inspired by the author, to help finance it. For his third directorial effort, Tarantino made the only book adaptation of his career, “Jackie Brown,” which was based on Leonard’s “Rum Punch.” A prequel to that book, called “The Switch,” has also been adapted into a film called “Life of Crime,” starring Mos Def, John Hawke and Jennifer Aniston, and is premiering at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.
“Out of Sight”
This Steven Soderbergh crime romp marked big moments in the careers of two actors we now know as A-list stars. George Clooney was mostly known for his role on “E.R.” and an often mocked turn as Batman when he starred as Jack Foley, a bank robber that unwittingly kidnaps a U.S. Marshall, played by Jennifer Lopez. “Out of Sight” was one of a string of films in the late 90s that sent the profiles of Clooney and Lopez soaring.
One of TV’s most beloved shows, “Justified,” also has its origins in the pages of Leonard’s books. The main character, Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, appeared in two novels and a short story before making the jump to small screen via Timothy Olyphant.