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William Bast, Writer for TV Who Penned James Dean Bios, Dies at 84

William Bast, who wrote extensively for both film and TV and was also known for his two biographies of James Dean, died of complications from Alzheimer’s on May 4. He was 84.

Bast wrote scripts for episodes of series including “Combat!,” “Perry Mason,” “Ben Casey,” “The Outer Limits,” “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” “Honey West,” “Dr. Kildare,” “The Mod Squad” and “It Takes a Thief.” He also wrote scripts for the BBC and British Independent Television, adapted Jean Giradoux’s play “Tiger at the Gates” for Granada Television and wrote episodes for classic series “The Prisoner.”

In 1976 he received the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe Award for his telepic “The Legend of Lizzie Borden,” starring Elizabeth Montgomery. His 1977 adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ “The Man in the Iron Mask,” with Richard Chamberlain in the dual role, was nominated for an Emmy, and in 1982 his script for “The Scarlet Pimpernel,” with Anthony Andrews and Ian McKellen, was honored with a Christopher Award. In 1984, his script for the miniseries “The First Modern Olympics” won him the Writers Guild Award for outstanding script for TV longform series.

From 1985-87 Bast wrote and produced, with his partner Paul Huson, “The Colbys,” a spinoff from the ABC series “Dynasty.” With Huson he also wrote and produced a variety of television movies and series including “Tucker’s Witch,” “The Hamptons,” “Pursuit,” “The Big One: The Great Los Angeles Earthquake,” “Power and Beauty” and “The Fury Within.”

Bast’s film credits include the script for 1969’s “The Valley of Gwangi,” “Hammerhead” and the 1978 adaptation of Harold Robbins’ “The Betsy,” which starred Laurence Olivier and Robert Duvall.

Born in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, Bast moved to Los Angeles to study theater arts at UCLA. There he met and became a close friend of actor James Dean. When Dean died, Bast wrote a highly regarded biography of his friend entitled “James Dean: A Biography.” In 2006, he wrote a second, more candid, book about his relationship with Dean entitled “Surviving James Dean.”

Bast is survived by his partner of 48 years, Paul Huson; his brother; and a niece.

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