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Actor-director Peter Masterson (1934-2018)


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Peter Masterson, the actor, writer, producer, director and key figure in the creation of the stage and screen productions of "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," died Tuesday at the age of 84. His death was attributed to a fall at his home in Kinderhook, New York. He was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2004.

Masterson and his actress-wife Carlin Glynn had three children, including the veteran actress Mary Stuart Masterson.

Image result for peter masterson carlin glynn, mary stuart masterson

Glynn and Masterson were married for 58 years and frequent collaborators on projects

Masterson also directed "The Trip to Bountiful," the 1985 drama for which Geraldine Page received an Academy Award. The film was based on a play by the acclaimed Texas writer Horton Foote, who was Masterson's cousin. Foote received an Oscar nomination for adapting the movie's screenplay.

The film, set in the 1940s,  starred Page as an elderly woman determined to return to her hometown in Bountiful, Texas. Rebecca De Mornay co-starred as the young woman who befriends her during a bus trip. The drama also starred Glynn, John Heard and Richard Bradford.

Born in Houston, Texas on June 1, 1934, Masterson met Glynn -- who had studied in New York with Stella Adler -- when they worked together at Houston's Alley Theatre. They married in 1960, and Glynn delayed her career pursuits for several years to rear their children. 

He made his screen debut in "Ambush Bay" (1966), a World War II film set in the Philippines and starring Hugh O'Brian, Mickey Rooney and James Mitchum. He also appeared in Norman Jewison's 1967 Oscar-winning drama "In the Heat of the Night," headlined by Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger.

Masterson co-starred as the husband of Katharine Ross' character in the 1975 thriller "The Stepford Wives," directed by Bryan Forbes. Their daughter (pictured below) was played by the 9-year-old Mary Stuart Masterson. It was her first film.

Image result for peter masterson the stepford wives

Among his other film credits as an actor: "Counterpoint" (1968); "Von Richthofen and Brown" (1971), "Tomorrow" (1972, starring Robert Duvall and based on a teleplay by Foote); The Exorcist" (1973, as a clinic doctor examining Linda Blair's character, Reagan MacNeil) and "Gardens of Stone" (1987, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and also featuring Masterson's wife and daughter).

Masterson collaborated with writer Larry L. King  -- another Texan -- in the creation of a musical derived from King's 1974 Playboy article about a brothel in La Grange, Texas. The result was "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," which was co-directed by Masterson and Tommy Tune (another Houston product). It opened on Broadway on June 19, 1978 and ran for 1,584 performances over four years.

The Broadway production was nominated for eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical (Masterson and King), Best Direction of a Musical (Masterson and Tune) and Best Choreography (Tune). In a year when "Sweeney Todd" was dominant, "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" won two awards: Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical (Henderson Forsythe) and Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical (Glynn, who had been coaxed by her husband to come out of retirement).

Masterson was the original director for the 1982 screen version of "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" -- which teamed Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton. But the film eventually was helmed by Colin Higgins.

In 1994, Masterson and Tune returned to Broadway with a musical sequel titled "The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public." It closed after 16 performances.

"He was about process, not results," Mary Stuart Masterson once said about her father. He was as kind and patient on the set as he was a father."

She recalled being directed by her father for the 1996 Showtime production "Lily Dale," another adaptation of a Foote stage play.

"When he directed me in 'Lily Dale,' he was so hands off and professional," she said. "Just a real gentleman. But it was odd. He seemed distant. When I asked him about it, he said, 'You’re a movie star. I’m treating you like a movie star.' I said, 'Well, don’t!' And then he gave me a hug. Which was all I needed.

"He was a man of few words, but every one of them a gem."

The actress, who recently starred in the NBC series "Blindspot," has had a long career. In 2007, she directed her first feature film "The Cake Eaters," which featured Kristen Stewart, Aaron Stanford and Bruce Dern (pictured below with the younger Masterson).

Image result for mary stuart masterson bruce dern


Peter Masterson's career bounced between acting (Stepford Wives, Exorcist) and directing (The Trip to Bountiful) and between stage (Best Little Whorehouse) and screen. The Houston native died this week after a great career that had many facets.

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