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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Alan Sharp
Born12 January 1934
Alyth, Scotland
Died8 February 2013(2013-02-08) (aged 79)
Los Angeles, California, United States
OccupationNovelist, screenwriter

Alan Sharp (12 January 1934 – 8 February 2013) was a Scottish novelist and screenwriter. He published two novels in the 1960s, and subsequently wrote the screenplays for about twenty films, mostly produced in the United States.[1]

According to one obituary, "his best-known narratives created and then disassembled audience expectations about all the usual Hollywood verities, especially the triumph of justice, love and friendship."[2]


Early life

Sharp was raised in Greenock, Scotland, the son of a single mother, and he was adopted at the age of six weeks by Margaret and Joseph Sharp, a shipyard worker. His adoptive parents belonged to a Salvation Army church.

Alan left school at 14 to apprentice in the yards, the first of a long series of odd jobs. He also worked as assistant to a private detective, as an English teacher in Germany, construction laborer, dishwasher, night switchboard operator for a burglar alarm firm, packer for a carpet company, and had a role at IBM. From 1952 to 1954, he did his National Service.[2]

When he left the army he returned to Greenock, got married and intended to train as a teacher. However, when his college grant arrived, he gave the money to his wife and left for Germany. He then relocated to London with the intention of becoming a writer.[3]


One of Sharp's screenplays was broadcast on British television in 1963, and his play A Knight in Tarnished Armour, based on his time on the docks, was broadcast in 1965.

His first novel, A Green Tree in Gedde, was published in 1965 to acclaim and won the 1967 Scottish Arts Council Award. It was banned in Scotland for a time due to its sexual content.[3][4]

It was the first part of a proposed trilogy, and Sharp published the second novel, The Wind Shifts, in 1967. The third novel, which had the working title The Apple Pickers,[4][5] was left incomplete when Sharp emigrated to Hollywood and focused on screenwriting.

Sharp married for a second time and also had a relationship with the novelist Beryl Bainbridge, with whom he had a daughter, Ruth. Bainbridge later said, "He showed up for Rudi's birth, but then went downstairs saying he was going to get a book out of the car and never came back."[6]


When Sharp moved to Hollywood he said he was interested in writing detective and Western films. "They satisfied some requirements of detachment from personal content and yet allowed me to write about themes that interested me," he said.[7]

He wrote The Last Run, which he called "an attempt to use the melodramatic crime chase to deal with whatever the hero's preoccupations might be."[7] He then wrote a series of Westerns, such as Ulzana's Raid and Billy Two Hats. He called Night Moves "an attempt to use the classic detective format, the private eye, and then set him in a landscape in which he was unable to solve the case."[7]

TV movies

From the 1980s, most of Sharp's screenplays were for American television productions. His 1993 television screenplay (with Walter Klenhard) for The Last Hit was nominated for the Edgar Allan Poe Award (best TV feature or miniseries).[8] His feature film projects included The Osterman Weekend (Sam Peckinpah's swan song in 1982), Rob Roy (1995), and Dean Spanley (2008).[9]

He lived for a number of years in New Zealand on Kawau Island, but moved back to Scotland in 2000. In 1996, Peter Broughan announced that he and Sharp would be making two further feature films together, Vain Glory about Christopher Marlowe and Confessions of a Justified Sinner; neither was made. Nor was a film Sharp wrote about Scottish poet Robert Burns.[10]

Personal life

The actress Rudi Davies is the daughter of Sharp and novelist Beryl Bainbridge, who used Sharp as the inspiration for the main character in the novel Sweet William (1975). Sharp was also one inspiration for Sometimes She'll Dance, by Brian Pendreigh, originally published as a short story in 2012 and used in a revised form as the concluding part of his critically acclaimed novel The Man in the Seventh Row and Related Stories of the Human Condition in 2020.[11]

A second daughter, Rachel Minnie Sharp, also briefly an actress, was married to Luke Perry.[12]

Sharp was survived by his fourth wife, Harriet Sharp, and a total of six children, two stepsons and 14 grandchildren, including professional wrestler 'Jungle Boy' Jack Perry.[2]


According to one obituary of Sharp, "He never quite became a household name. He had a life and a lifestyle he enjoyed and that seemed to be enough. He had a huge talent, but sometimes seemed to lack ambition, or was reluctant to commit himself or seemed afflicted with doubt about his own abilities, dismissing his work as 'pastiche'."[10]

In the 1970s, six of Sharp's screenplays became high-profile Hollywood feature films, most of them dealing with quintessentially American themes and characters. Walter Chaw writes of Sharp's screenplays from this period, "On the strength of his scripts for The Hired Hand, Ulzana's Raid, and Night Moves, Scottish novelist Alan Sharp seems well at home with the better-known, more highly regarded writers and directors of the New American Cinema. Sharp's screenplays are marked by a narrative complexity and situations gravid with implication and doom."[13]

Trevor Johnston has written that "There's an argument to suggest that a certain seventysomething Scot could well be Britain's greatest living screenwriter. Much is made of pre-Star Wars '70s Hollywood as a kind of celluloid golden age, and Alan Sharp was there in the thick of it, working with the very best, generating the sort of track record few British screenwriters are likely to match."[14]

David N. Meyer has incorporated an appreciation of Sharp's writing in his review of Night Moves (directed by Arthur Penn in 1975). Following a description of an important seduction scene from the film, Meyer adds: "These delicious, poisonous moments – these cookies full of arsenic – come courtesy of Alan Sharp's venomous, entrapping, perfectly circular screenplay. It's hard not to regard him – rather than Penn – as the engine of Night Moves' enduring power. Sharp had an unbroken forty year career writing features and television."[15]

Quentin Curtis called the screenplay for Rob Roy "one of the best screenplays in the last decade".[16]

Selected credits

Further reading

  • Craig, Cairns, The Body in the Kit Bag: History and the Scottish Novel, in Bold, Christine (ed.), Cencrastus No. 1, Autumn 1979, pp. 18 – 22 ISSN 0264-0856.



  1. ^ Barnes, Mike (11 February 2013). "'Rob Roy' Screenwriter Alan Sharp Dies at 79". The Hollywood Reporter.
  2. ^ a b c Vitello, Paul (13 February 2013). "Alan Sharp, Writer of Dark Screenplays, Dies at 79". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 February 2013.
  3. ^ a b Pendreigh, Brian (18 September 2002). "Sharp Shooter". iofilm. Archived from the original on 10 November 2010. Retrieved 19 October 2010.
  4. ^ a b Nichols, Lewis (28 April 1968). "American Notebook" (PDF). The New York Times. Alan Sharp, the young British writer who began a trilogy with the well-received "Green Tree in Gedde" and continued with the recently published but less well-received "The Wind Shifts," is halfway through the final volume, to be called "The Apple Pickers." No free online access.
  5. ^ "Alan Sharp, screnwriter of 'Rob Roy,' 'Night Moves,' dies". Variety. 11 February 2013. This obituary claims that Sharp's unfinished novel was titled "Don't Cry, It's Only a Picture Show.
  6. ^ Bergan, Ronald (12 April 2013). "Obituary: Alan Sharp: Swashbuckling screenwriter behind Rob Roy, Ulzana's Raid and Night Moves". The Guardian. London. p. 39.
  7. ^ a b c Night Moves Revisited: Scriptwriter Alan Sharp Interviewed by Bruce Horsfield, December 1979. Horsfield, Bruce. Literature/Film Quarterly; Salisbury Vol. 11, Iss. 2, (1983): 88–104
  8. ^ Search at "The Edgar Awards Database".
  9. ^ Interview : Sharp practice: Alan Sharp provides the screenwriters perspective on bringing Dean Spanley to the screen. Sharp, Alan. OnFilm; Auckland (Feb 2009): 10.
  10. ^ a b Alan Sharp: Glaswegian novelist and scriptwriter who became the toast of Hollywood with his screenplays for hit films [Edition 3] Sharp, Alan. The Times 16 Feb 2013: 88.
  11. ^ Pendreigh, Brian (15 February 2013). "Obituary: Alan Sharp, writer". The Scotsman. Alan Sharp was one of the greatest Scottish writers of the 20th century, even though many people have never heard of him.
  12. ^ "Luke Perry (I)-Biography". Retrieved 14 February 2013.
  13. ^ Chaw, Walter (14 April 2010). "Night Moves". Film Freak Central. Archived from the original on 18 December 2010.
  14. ^ Johnston, Trevor (13 January 2009). "Dean Spanley". The Script Factory. Archived from the original on 13 August 2010. Retrieved 21 October 2010. Trevor Johnston is a film critic for Time Out London. His article is a detailed appreciation of Sharp's adaptation of Lord Dunsany's 1936 novella, My Talks with Dean Spanley, for the film Dean Spanley (2008).
  15. ^ Meyer, David N. (3 May 2009). "Any Kennedy: The Merciless, Blinding Sunshine of Night Moves". Film Noir of the Week. Archived from the original on 26 July 2011.
  16. ^ Curtis, Quentin (21 May 1995). "Cinema / Och aye, such noble derring-do!". The Independent. The first point to make about Alan Sharp's script is that it travesties history, bearing only the flimsiest resemblance to the facts of Rob's life, and importing a great deal of sensationalism (such as the rape of Rob's wife by Cunningham). The second point is that it's one of the best screenplays of the last decade. Sharp, who is returning to his roots, after scripting Hollywood classics such as Ulzana's Raid and Night Moves, has married the narrative complexity of the classic Western and film noir, to an earthy Scottish naturalism. The result is not so much like Walter Scott (whose novel Rob Roy barely dealt with the hero) as James Boswell, when in tumultuous mood, with the whoring rage upon him.
  17. ^ The Hired Hand

Further reading

External links

This page was last edited on 10 September 2021, at 21:51
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