Joseph William Stefano (May 5, 1922 – August 25, 2006) was an American screenwriter, known for adapting Robert Bloch's novel as the script for Alfred Hitchcock's film Psycho, and for being the producer and co-writer of the original The Outer Limits television series.[1][2]

Joseph Stefano
Joseph William Stefano

(1922-05-05)May 5, 1922
DiedAugust 25, 2006(2006-08-25) (aged 84)
Occupation(s)Screenwriter, producer, director
SpouseMarilyn Epstein (1954–2006)

Early years Edit

Stefano was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to a father who was a tailor and a mother who made silk flowers. As a teenager, Stefano was so keen to become an actor that he dropped out of high school two weeks before graduation and traveled to New York City. In Manhattan he adopted the stage name Jerry Stevens.

Stefano's initial career was as a composer of pop music in the 1940s, writing songs for Las Vegas showman Donn Arden. In possession of a large collection of sheet music, he once spent five hours challenging pianist Michael Feinstein on the titles of obscure Tin Pan Alley songs.

Career as screenwriter, producer and director Edit

Stefano began writing movie scripts in the late 1950s, firstly for Martin Ritt with The Black Orchid (1959); his mother's occupation was an influence on the screenplay.

Stefano was commissioned by Alfred Hitchcock to adapt Robert Bloch's novel Psycho (1960) for his film version. His work was recognized by the Mystery Writers of America when he was given a 1961 Edgar Award, for Best Motion Picture Screenplay. Stefano appears briefly onscreen, discussing Bloch's utilization of the basis of the character Norman Bates in the crimes of serial killer Ed Gein, in the documentary Ed Gein: The Ghoul of Plainfield, which can be found on Disc 2 of the DVD release of the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003).

Stefano was offered the task of scripting Hitchcock's The Birds (1963) and Marnie (1964), but was already committed to produce and write for his friend Leslie Stevens' science fiction television anthology series The Outer Limits. Both Stefano and Stevens were involved only during the first season of the show. In the book Writing with Hitchcock, Stefano said that Hitchcock held a grudge over his being unavailable to write the screenplay for Marnie.

After leaving The Outer Limits due to network interference and exhaustion, Stefano wrote, produced and directed The Ghost of Sierra de Cobre (1964; aka The Haunted), a film utilizing many of the crew responsible for The Outer Limits. The thriller Eye of the Cat (1969) and the comedy Futz (1969) were Stefano's last big-screen work for many years. Throughout the 1970s, he wrote many television films such as Revenge! (1971), A Death of Innocence (1971), Home for the Holidays (1972), Live Again, Die Again (1974), Aloha Means Goodbye (1974) and Snowbeast (1977). Stefano also wrote one episode for the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation (1988) entitled "Skin of Evil". Stefano was one of the Guests of Honor at the 1974 NY Telefantasy Convention (along with Noel Neill, Jim Danforth and William Tuttle), and spent hours signing autographs for hundreds of Outer Limits fans. At the show, he expressed his surprise that so many people still remembered the series almost a decade after its cancellation.

In 1990, he revisited the characters from Psycho with the TV movie script for the prequel, in what he believed had become an increasingly disappointing series of films. Psycho IV: The Beginning (1990) posits the origins of Norman Bates' destructive mother-love, featuring Olivia Hussey as Mrs. Bates. Stefano wrote and executive produced the Al Pacino drama Two Bits (1995), a personal project that fared poorly at the box-office and with critics, leaving Stefano less than enthusiastic about continuing to write for modern Hollywood. Gus Van Sant's remake of Psycho (1998 film) (1998) followed Stefano's script punctiliously, and in the biopic Hitchcock (2012) based on the book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho by Stephen Rebello, he is portrayed by Ralph Macchio.

Stefano died of a heart attack at Los Robles Hospital in Thousand Oaks, California, in 2006.

The Outer Limits Edit

Stefano was a producer for the first season of The Outer Limits and wrote a total of 12 episodes. They are:

The last episode was originally a pilot for a proposed TV series called The Unknown, but after ABC rejected it, Stefano reworked it as the season one finale.

Filmography Edit

Films Edit

Year Title Writer Producer Notes
1958 Anna of Brooklyn Yes Co-writer with Ettore Margadonna, Luciana Corda
1959 The Black Orchid Yes
1960 Psycho Yes Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Motion Picture Screenplay
Nominated – Writers Guild of American Award for Best Written American Drama
1961 The Naked Edge Yes
1969 Eye of the Cat Yes
Futz Yes
1987 The Kindred Yes Co-writer with Stephen Carpenter, Jeffrey Obrow, John Penney, Earl Ghaffari
1988 Blackout Yes Yes Co-writer with Laura Ferguson
1995 Two Bits Yes
1998 Psycho Yes Remake of 1960 film based on Stefano's screenplay

Television Edit

Year Title Writer Director Producer Notes
1958 Playhouse 90 Yes Episode: "Made in Japan" (story only)
1959 General Electric Theater Yes Episode: "Hitler's Secret"
Episode: "The Committeeman"
1960 Startime Yes Episode: "The Young Juggler"
The Detectives Yes Episode: "Life in the Balance"
Episode: "The Bad Eye of Rose Rosetti"
Episode: "Song of Songs"
1962 Saints and Sinners Yes Episode: "Source of Information"
1963 The Lloyd Bridges Show Yes Episode: "A Game for Alternate Mondays"
Mr. Novak Yes Episode: "First Year, First Day"
1963–64 The Outer Limits Yes Yes Writer (12 episodes); Producer (32 episodes)
1964 The Unknown Yes Yes TV movie (pilot)
The Ghost of Sierra de Cobre Yes Yes Yes TV movie (pilot)
1971 Marcus Welby, M.D. Yes Episode: "False Spring"
Revenge! Yes TV movie
A Death of Innocence Yes TV movie
1972 Home for the Holidays Yes TV movie
1973 The Magician Yes Episode: "Pilot" (story only)
1974 Live Again, Die Again Yes TV movie
Aloha Means Goodbye Yes TV movie
1977 Snowbeast Yes TV movie
1988 Star Trek: The Next Generation Yes Episode: "Skin of Evil"
1990 Swamp Thing Yes Yes Writer (2 episodes); Producer (13 episodes)
Psycho IV: The Beginning Yes TV movie

References Edit

  1. ^ "Joseph Stefano, 84, Screenwriter for 'Psycho' and Television, Dies". The New York Times. August 31, 2006.
  2. ^ Bernstein, Adam (August 30, 2006). "Joseph Stefano; Key Writer for 'Psycho'". The Washington Post.

External links Edit