On Augus 27 is the 82th birthday anniversary of Ira Levin, mystery and suspense writer, dramatist and songwriter, awarded with The Grand Masters Award by the Mystery Writers of America in 2003.
Ira Levin‘s work generated a worldwide interest and inspired lots of famous movies. Rosemary’s Baby (the best known novel), A Kiss Before Dying (Edgar Allan Poe Award), The Boys from Brazil, The Stepford Wives, Sliver, Deathtrap (the best known play), This Perfect Day (Prometheus Hall of Fame Award) are among his writings.
Ira Levin became early attracted by mystery and writing.
When he was twelve Ira Levin was fascinated by the magicians of Tannen’s Magic Shop in Times Square and he learned about concealing reality behind illusion. He liked detective stories and had a collection of mystery books. Anagrams played major roles in Rosemarys’s Baby and Son of Rosemary. Ira Levin continued the tradition of using the transposition of letters (Lon Chaney Jr. in Son of Dracula) and basics of cryptology (Poe in The Gold Bug).
Ira Levin said he had considered being a writer from the time he was fourteen or fifteen years old. “Before that I wanted to be a magazine illustrator – I probably would have painted Gothic scenes.”
He was accused thinking ahead to the movie script while writing. He denied saying he is a playwright at heart.
Ira Levin‘s first novel, A Kiss Before Dying (1953) won the Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America as the year’s best first mystery.
The Underground Gourmet published in 1954 was adapted for TV and appeared on G.E. Theater, hosted by Ronald Reagan.
Rosemary’s Baby (horror, 1967) was a best-seller (over 5 million paperback copies in the U.S.) and it was translated into lots of languages. It became a horror classic and a milestone. It was followed by books and movies about Satan (The Omen, The Exorcist and others). Ira Levin felt somehow responsible for the rise in Christian Fundamentalism, but “I didn’t send back any of the royalty checks,” he said.
Ira Levin read Future Shock (Alvin Toffler, 1970) and was fascinated by its references to domestic robots. The animated figures in the Hall of Presidents at Disneyland also enchanted him. In this way The Stepford Wives (satirical thriller, 1972) emerged. It tells about men’s desires. The way they found to fulfilled them was considered insulting by Women’s Lib Movement. The word Stepford entered the common vocabulary, with meanings from someone who allow his/her role in society to be dictated to someone resembling an automaton, someone conformist, submissive, or unemotional, mechanical.
This Perfect Day (heroic science fiction, 1970) was often compared with Brave New World (Aldous Huxley), and 1984 (George Orwell). Generally, Ira Levin just tells the story without making any judgements regarding the basic state of the human race, but in this novel he talks about absolute control over the human emotions and desires.
Ira Levin saw an article on cloning that included a picture of Adolf Hitler and that was the beginning of The Boys From Brazil (thriller, 1976).
Three of his mystery novels begin with similar facts: Rosemary Woodhouse is sure she would enjoy living at the Bramford (Rosemary’s Baby), Joanna Eberhart thinks she has found the perfect home (The Stepford Wives), Kay Norris is delighted to move into 1300 Madison Ave (Sliver, 1991).
The basic premise of Ira Levin’s Deathtrap (1978) is: How far will someone go to have a hit play? and it was a hit play, it ran for 1,792 consecutive performances.
“Ira Levin makes the fact that we’re going to die okay. That’s one of the things that horror novels in general do.” said Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk.
Ira Levin died from a heart attack on November 12, 2007.