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Barbara Turner, ‘Georgia’ Screenwriter and Mother of Jennifer Jason Leigh, Dies at 79

Barbara Turner, the screenwriter of “Petulia,” “Georgia” and “Pollock,” among numerous other features for film and television, died on Tuesday, April 5, in Los Angeles. Among Turner’s children was actress Jennifer Jason Leigh. She was 79.

After high school, Turner attended the University of Texas for a year, then returned to New York to study acting first at the Dramatic Workshop and later with Paul Mann, where she met Vic Morrow, who became her first  husband. In the late ’50s, Turner and Morrow moved to Hollywood, where she began acting in theater and on television series such as “Playhouse 90” and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.” Turner’s first screenplay was an adaptation of the Jean Genet play “Deathwatch,” directed by Morrow in 1966.

Turner received a Writers’ Guild of America nomination for her adaptation of “Petulia” (directed by Richard Lester in 1968), an Emmy nomination for TV movie “The War Between the Tates” (1977), Emmy and Writers Guild nominations for HBO movie “Hemingway & Gelhorn” (2012), and the Christopher Award for “Eye of the Sparrow” (1987); she was also a Humanitas Award finalist for the TV movies “Widow” and “Out of Darkness” (1994).

In 1994, Turner produced her screenplay “Georgia” with her daughter Leigh and the film’s director Ulu Grosbard. The film won the 1995 Montreal Film Festival’s Grand Prix of the Americas and a best actress award for Leigh. Leigh was also honored for her performance by the New York Film Critics Circle, and co-star Mare Winningham received an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress.

Turner’s other feature screenplay credits include “Pollock” (2000), adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography “Jackson Pollock: An American Saga,” by Steven Naifehand Gregory White Smith, and directed by and starring Ed Harris. Harris was nominated for a best actor Oscar and his co-star, Marcia Gay Harden, received the Oscar for best supporting actress for her portrayal of Lee Krasner in the film.

Turner also wrote the screenplay for Robert Altman’s film “The Company” (2003), starring Neve Campbell, Malcolm McDowell and James Franco.

Turner’s unproduced screenplays include the adaptations “Headlong,” based on the Michael Frayn novel of the same name; “Knowledge of Angels,” based on Jill Paton Walsh’s novel; and “Barn Blind,” based on Jane Smiley’s novel. Among her original screenplays are “Beautiful View,” “Under Heaven” and “Once Again for Zelda.”

In a 1995 interview in Scenario magazine, which published her screenplay for “Georgia,” Turner discussed her intensive creative process: “I do a lot of research… so everything is sunk in a kind of truth. People are wonderful, they’re extraordinary. They do and say and create extraordinary things. And that’s the joy of writing for me: just going out there for each screenplay and listening to people, and learning how they view the world, how they experience life and each other. My thought is, why make anything up when it’s so wonderful as it is?”

Gloria Rose Turner was born in New York. She was married twice: from 1957-64 to actor Vic Morrow, with whom she had two daughters, Carrie Ann Morrow and Leigh, and from 1968-1979 to television director Reza Badiyi, with whom she had another daughter, Mina Badiyi Chassler.

Turner is survived by her three daughters, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren

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