Playwright and screenwriter Samuel Taylor, who penned such hit Broadway plays as “Sabrina Fair” and “The Pleasure of His Company” and wrote the screenplay to the Alfred Hitchcock thriller, “Vertigo,” on Thursday of heart failure at his home in Blue Hill, Maine. He was 87.
Although Taylor considered himself primarily a playwright, he appreciated the irony that he was perhaps best remembered for co-writing both “Vertigo” and the popular 1954 screen version of “Sabrina.”
Born in Chicago, he was reared in San Francisco where he later attended the U. of California at Berkeley. His schooling at Berkeley was interrupted occasionally when he would ship out as a merchant seaman.
During the mid 1930s, Taylor moved to New York to try his hand at writing and landed a short-lived job at the New Yorker magazine. Realizing that print journalism wasn’t his strong suit and having a keen interest in theater, Taylor found a job reading plays for an agent. He wound up rewriting some of the submitted plays and many were produced.
By the end of the 1930s, Taylor had worked on Clifford Goldsmith’s play “What a Life” and also wrote scripts for the radio series “The Aldrich Family.” In 1940 he married singer Suzanne Combes Robinson.
By the late 1940s, he was writing for TV as well as radio and concurrently working on a play called “The Happy Time” about a French-Canadian family in 1920s Ottawa. The play opened in 1950 to good reviews and allowed Taylor to devote himself full-time to writing plays.
“Sabrina Fair,” which starred Joseph Cotten and Margaret Sullavan, opened in 1953 and was later brought to the screen as a Billy Wilder-helmed comedy starring Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn and William Holden.
Taylor followed this with “The Pleasure of His Company” with Cornelia Otis Skinner and Cyril Ritchard. While working on “Pleasure,” he was hired by Hitchcock to salvage the script of “Vertigo,” which had already gone through two writers. The movie was a big hit.
Some of his other screenwriting credits included “The Eddy Duchin Story,” “Topaz” and “Goodbye Again.”
A member of the Dramatists Guild, the Writers’ Guild of America, the Century Association and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, he once served as president of the Dramatists Play Service.
He is survived by his wife, Suzanne, two sons and nine grandchildren.
A memorial service in Maine is planned for summer.
In lieu of flowers, family suggests donations in Taylor’s name be made to the Motion Picture and Television Home at Woodland Hills or the Blue Hill Library Campaign, c/o Robin Clements, Blue Hill Public Library, Blue Hill ME 04614.