The entertainment industry suffered a great loss as we start off this week, as Sam Shepard, an iconic playwright and Academy Award-nominated actor, has died. He was 73 years old. This news was first reported by Broadway World, with the site saying that Shepard had been battling ALS for some time. He passed away at his home in Kentucky, surrounded by his family.
As a firm actor, Shepard appeared in such projects as The Right Stuff, The Notebook, and Steel Magnolias; television viewers may remember him from his recent work on Netflix’s Bloodline (pictured above) as Robert Rayburn. He appeared across multiple seasons of that show, and also turned up in the recent limited series Klondike as Father Judge. He was the sort of actor who found enough success that he didn’t have to take roles in any project; he was able to figure out the ones that he wanted to take on, and from there, pursue them while making time for some of his other work as a writer.
At the end of the day, Shepard’s greatest contributions may actually be behind the scenes writing stories. The aforementioned website compiled a list of some of the plays that he wrote over the course of his life, and they include the following: Cowboys, The Rock Garden, Chicago, Icarus’s Mother, 4-H Club, Red Cross, La Turista, Cowboys #2, Forensic & the Navigators, The Unseen Hand, Oh! Calcutta! (contributed sketches), The Holy Ghostly, Operation Sidewinder, Mad Dog Blues, Back Bog Beast Bait, Cowboy Mouth, The Tooth of Crime, Geography of a Horse Dreamer, Action, Angel City, Suicide in B Flat, Inacoma, Curse of the Starving Class, Buried Child, Tongues, True West, Savage/Love, Fool for Love, A Lie of the Mind, A Short Life of Trouble, Baby Boom, States of Shock, Simpatico, Tooth of Crime, Eyes for Consuela, The Late Henry Moss, The God of Hell, Kicking a Dead Horse, Ages of the Moon, Heartless and A Particle of Dread.
While Shepard did not become much of a writer for television during his life, many of his plays did end up becoming TV movie adaptations. True West is one of the more famous ones. He did also write a few movies, including Paris, Texas more than three decades ago. That one stands out to us as someone who is familiar with the real Paris, Texas.
Shepard is the sort of talent whose work will be remembered in different ways depending on who you are. If you consider yourself a lover of the theater, than more than likely his contributions there will stand out the most. Meanwhile, if you don’t spend much time attending plays, odds are that you will appreciate him the most for some of what you saw of him onscreen.
Either way, Shepard was a true visionary and one of a kind in an era where great writers continue to not get some of the respect they deserve. Our thoughts go out to his family during what has to be a super-difficult time for them. (Photo: Netflix.)