Mike Nichols directed the 1983 film that told the story of Karen Silkwood, a lab worker who was killed in a suspicious car crash on her way to meet a reporter. Meryl Streep played Silkwood, who was attempting to expose dangerous radiation levels at the nuclear plant where she worked.
Arlen, who came from a family of prominent journalists, began her career as a journalist. After “Silkwood,” she took on another film based on true events, Louis Malle’s “Alamo Bay.” It was the story of the conflict in the Gulf of Mexico between Vietnamese immigrants and Texas shrimp fishermen.
Arlen and Ephron also collaborated on Susan Seidelman’s 1989 “Cookie,” about the daughter of a Mafia boss, on which Arlen was executive producer. Her other screenplays included the 2002 film “The Weight of Water,” adapted from an Anita Shreve novel; television movie “A Thief of Time,” based on a Tony Hillerman novel; and “Then She Found Me,” co-written with Victor Levin and Helen Hunt, based on an Elinor Lipman novel.
She also served as associate producer of the 1990 Michael Caine comedy “A Shock to the System.”
Arlen’s grandfather, Joseph Medill Patterson, founded the New York Daily News, while her great-aunt Eleanor Medill Patterson published the Washington Times-Herald and her aunt, Alicia Patterson, founded Newsday.
Born in Chicago, she graduated from Radcliffe College and then returned to Chicago to write for the local CBS station. She was married to editor and former Chicago Sun-Times publisher James Hoge, with whom she had three children. After divorcing Hoge, she married author Michael J. Arlen.
Arlen was an author as well as past president, board member and former director of the Alicia Patterson Foundation, which supports in-depth writing and research by journalists.
She supported several conservation organizations, and in 1997, founded nonprofit Harlem youth theater Impact Repertory Theater, with Columbia University film professor Jamal Joseph.
She is survived by her husband Michael; daughter Alicia Adam, co-founder of the Bootleg Theater in Los Angeles; sons James Patrick Hoge and Robert Hoge; four step-children, Jennifer Arlen, Caroline Arlen, Elizabeth Arlen and Sally Arlen; and three siblings.