Harriet Frank Jr., Oscar-Nominated ‘Hud’ and ‘Norma Rae’ Screenwriter, Dies at 96

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Harriet Frank Jr., who collaborated with her husband, Irving Ravetch, on the Oscar-nominated screenplays for “Norma Rae” and “Hud,” died on Tuesday at her home in Los Angeles. She was 96.

Her nephew Michael Frank announced her death to the New York Times.

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Frank and Ravetch worked on 17 features together after meeting while writers at MGM. She and Ravetch were married from 1946 until his death in 2010 at age 89.

Frank and Ravetch worked on eight movies directed by Martin Ritt, starting with “The Long, Hot Summer” in 1958, followed by “The Sound and the Fury” in 1959 and “Hud” in 1963. “Hud,” based on Larry McMurtry’s “Horseman, Pass By,” was nominated for seven Academy Awards. In addition to the Oscar nomination, the “Hud” screenplay received the best written American drama award from the Writers Guild of America and an award from the New York Film Critics Circle.

Frank, Ravetch and Ritt collaborated on 1974’s “Conrack,” starring Jon Voight and based on Pat Conroy’s “The Water Is Wide,” and 1979’s “Norma Rae,” starring Sally Field in a story based on the life of union organizer Crystal Lee Jordan. Field won her first Oscar for best actress for the role. The trio also collaborated on 1985’s “Murphy’s Romance,” toplined by Field and James Garner, and 1990’s “Stanley & Iris,” with Jane Fonda and Robert De Niro.

The couple also wrote the screenplays for “The Dark at the Top of the Stairs,” “House of Cards” and “The Spikes Gang.”

Frank was born in Portland, Ore., in 1923, to Sam Goldstein and Edith Frances Goldstein. Her mother changed the family name to Frank, becoming Harriet Frank Sr., and making her teenage daughter Harriet Frank Jr. The family moved to Los Angeles and Harriet Frank Sr. became a story editor for MGM. Her daughter was hired as a screenwriter trainee at the same studio, where she met Ravetch and married him.

The newlyweds discovered after returning from their honeymoon that they had been fired by MGM. The couple then found employment at Warner Bros. Harriet Frank Jr. also wrote stories for the Saturday Evening Post and Collier’s, and wrote the novels “Single” and “Special Effects” about a movie studio story editor.

Frank Jr. lived in the Hollywood Hills area of Los Angeles. She is survived by her brother Marty.

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