David Rayfiel dies at 87

Screenwriter worked with Sydney Pollack

Screenwriter David Rayfiel, who worked, both credited and uncredited, on a number of films directed by Sydney Pollack and starring Robert Redford, including “The Way We Were” and “Three Days of the Condor,” died Wednesday of congestive heart failure in New York. He was 87.

Rayfiel was a top script doctor, and many A-directors looked to him for anything from a polish to a complete rewrite.

Though Rayfiel scripted many films for Pollack, the impressive list of directors with whom he worked also included Bertrand Tavernier (” ‘Round Midnight,” “Death Watch”), Sidney Lumet (“The Morning After”) and Ingmar Bergman (“The Serpent’s Egg”).

Rayfiel was born in Brooklyn, the son of a congressman and judge.

During WWII he served in the Army in Europe. After the war he completed his studies at Brooklyn College, then earned a master’s in playwriting from the Yale School of Drama.

Rayfiel scripted episodes of TV series “Assignment Foreign Legion” and “Norby” during the mid-50s and later “Sam Benedict” and “Channing.”

His play “P.S. 193” was presented in 1962 as the inaugural production of the Writers’ Stage Company.

The play led to his long creative collaboration with Pollack. He drew assignments to write episodes of “Kraft Suspense Theater” and “Chrysler Theater” that Pollack directed, and Pollack helmed the West Coast premiere of “P.S. 193.”

Rayfiel was an uncredited scripter on Pollack’s first two bigscreen assignments, sensitive thriller “The Slender Thread” (1965) and romantic drama “This Property Is Condemned” (1966). The latter, an adaptation of a Tennessee Williams play whose credited screenwriters included Francis Ford Coppola, starred Redford and Natalie Wood.

Pollack and Rayfiel next worked together on absurdist anti-war drama “Castle Keep” — World War II as seen through the prism of Vietnam, one reviewer said.

After contributing to the offbeat Western “Valdez Is coming (1971), Rayfiel reunited with Pollack and Redford for “Jeremiah Johnson.” He contributed to the Pollack-Redford film “The Way We Were” and then to one of the best thrillers of the 1970s, “Three Days of the Condor,” again with Pollack directing and Redford starring.

Rayfiel penned the 1976 female revenge thriller “Lipstick,” one of the few films on which he was not only credited as screenwriter but carried the solo credit.

(During the 1970s he also returned to TV, penning episodes of “Rod Serling’s Night Gallery” and “Columbo.”)

On the bigscreen Rayfiel did uncredited work on Pollack-Redford collaboration “The Electric Horseman”; on Pollack’s “Absence of Malice,” a film about the ethical responsibilities of journalists that starred Paul Newman; and on Lumet thriller “The Morning After,” a film more impressive for performances by Jane Fonda and Jeff Bridges than for its script.

Rayfiel again worked with Pollack and Redford on the rather bland romantic drama “Havana” (1990), then contributed to the adaptation of bestselling John Grisham thriller “The Firm,” directed by Pollack and starring Tom Cruise.

Rayfiel’s last two efforts were the thriller “Intersection,” directed by Mark Rydell and starring Richard Gere, and Pollack’s remake of the delightful “Sabrina.”

Rayfiel’s second wife was the late actress Maureen Stapleton.

He is survived by his third wife, Lynne Schwarzenbek-Rayfiel; daughter Eliza Roberts, an actress and casting director married to actor Eric Roberts; two stepchildren; a brother; and two grandchildren, Keaton Simon, a musician and actor, and Morgan Simon.

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