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George (Ames) Plimpton (1927-2003) Biography

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for SATA sketch: Born March 18, 1927, in New York, NY; died September 25, 2003, in New York, NY. Editor and author. Plimpton is best remembered as the editor of the literary journal Paris Review, as well as being a prolific sports writer and author of the novel Paper Lion. Attending Harvard University, where he was editor of the Harvard Lampoon, his education was interrupted by military service in Europe. He served in the U.S. Army from 1945 to 1948, returning to Harvard to receive his A.B. that year. Plimpton then studied at King's College, Cambridge, where he earned a second bachelor's degree in 1952 and a master's in 1954. While on break from his studies in England, he traveled to France, where he and some of his friends came up with the idea of founding a literary journal to promote the works of unknown writers. The Paris Review was the result, and Plimpton became its first editor in 1953. After completing his degree at Cambridge, he returned to the United States, where he continued to edit the journal. But Plimpton's interests ranged far and wide, and he became known not only for his editing work but also for his writing, his many minor movie roles (he can be seen in such films as Rio Lobo [1970], Reds [1981], L.A. Story [1991], Good Will Hunting [1997], and Just Visiting [2001]), his love of sports, and other activities. There were few things that he was unwilling to try. For example, Plimpton once performed with a trapeze act, played percussion for the New York Philharmonic, pitched at an All Star game at Yankee Stadium, and played quarterback for the Detroit Lions. The last of these was the result of an idea he had for a sports story in which he planned to get himself on the team and then write an insider's story about his experiences. Although his plot was quickly revealed, he was allowed to play in one game, promptly losing thirty-four yards on the field. Nevertheless, Plimpton turned his experience into the novel Paper Lion (1966), which was later adapted into a 1968 film starring Alan Alda. Sport writing was one of Plimpton's favorite pursuits, and he produced over a dozen books on the subject, including The Bogey Man (1968), Shadow Box (1977), Open Net (1985), The Best of Plimpton (1990), and The Norton Book of Sports (1992), as well as a collection of cartoons titled A Sports Bestiary (1982). He was also a contributing editor for Sports Illustrated. Plimpton's eclectic tastes are further evident in that he was also an active associate or contributing editor to various other periodicals, including Harper's, Horizon, and Food and Wine. Among his many other publications are over a dozen edited books, including Poets at Work: The Paris Review Interviews (1989), Playwrights at Work (2000), and Home Run (2001), television scripts such as Plimpton! The Man on the Flying Trapeze (1970), nonfiction works like Pet Peeves; or, Whatever Happened to Doctor Rawff? (2000), and a children's book titled The Rabbit's Umbrella (1955). Plimpton's sense of humor and love for life were evident in everything he did and wrote, and his unflagging energy seemed to have him convinced that he had much more time left than he actually did: not long before his death, he was still actively working to produce the next issue of Paris Review, and he had just signed a contract with Little, Brown to write his memoirs, although he had been heard to say he believed he had many more years left in him. For his many contributions to literature, Plimpton received numerous awards, including the 1982 Mark Twain Award and, in 2002, being named a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor and being inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.



Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Volume 41, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2002.


Chicago Tribune, September 27, 2003, Section 1, pp. 1-2.

Los Angeles Times, September 27, 2003, pp. A1, A16.

New York Times, September 27, 2003, p. A25.

Times (London, England), September 27, 2003.

Washington Post, September 27, 2003, p. B7.

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