Joseph Stefano: One Scary Screenwriter

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The world of cinema has lost Joseph Stefano at age 84. He adapted the novel Psycho into a screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock's screen classic, and was co-creator of the creepy TV anthology The Outer Limits.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

(Soundbite of theme from Psycho)

SIMON: News this week that the man who helped create one of the most shocking moments in cinema has died. Joseph Stefano was 84. He wrote the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 classic, Psycho, adapted from the novel by Robert Bloch.

Mr. Stefano's screenplay upended one of the clich├ęs of moviemaking. The film's famous and high-priced star, Janet Leigh, steals money from her office and arrives at the Bates Motel. She's anxious, guilty, decides to take a shower. She's there in the shower, only about 20 minutes into the film, when Anthony Perkins - playing the young Peeping Tom, Norman Bates - stabs her to death.

The scene is not short. Killing the leading lady in the first 20 minutes had never been done before, Mr. Stefano explained. He also transformed the Norman Bates of the novel into a more sympathetic character, that prolonged stabbing notwithstanding.

Mr. Stefano went on to write several more screenplays and was a co-creator of The Outer Limits show for ABC.

Coming up, how some literary classics inform the stages of life.

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