Norman Wexler, Playwright and Screenwriter for "Saturday Night Fever," Dead at 73

News   Norman Wexler, Playwright and Screenwriter for "Saturday Night Fever," Dead at 73 Norman Wexler, the playwright and screenwriter whose script for "Saturday Night Fever" is the basis for the hit London and upcoming Broadway musical, died Aug. 23 in Washington DC.

Norman Wexler, the playwright and screenwriter whose script for "Saturday Night Fever" is the basis for the hit London and upcoming Broadway musical, died Aug. 23 in Washington DC.

The cause was a heart attack, Variety reported. He was 73.

The writer's screenplay about Brooklyn boy Tony Manero's passion to dance away his troubles at a New York City disco was a surprise, smash movie in 1977, both representing the disco era and helping to fuel the music craze's popularity (thanks to a score by the Bee Gees and elaborate dance sequences). It shot John Travolta, already a star on TV, into Hollywood superstardom.

The libretto for the new stage musical, which is a hit in London, is based on a story by Nik Cohn ("The Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night") and the screenplay by Mr. Wexler. The official libretto credits are Nan Knighton in collaboration with (director-choreographer) Arlene Phillips, Paul Nicholas and (film and record producer ) Robert Stigwood.

Mr. Wexler's screenplays in the 1970s -- "Joe" and "Serpico," among them - were noted for their gritty realism. He co-wrote "Staying Alive," the sequel to "Saturday Night Fever," which showed an older Tony Manero trying for a place in a Broadway musical. His plays include Red's My Color, What's Yours? and Forgive Me, Forgive Me Not, among others.

It was not immediately clear what input, if any, he had on the new stage version of Saturday Night Fever, which begins previews at Broadway's Minskoff Theatre Sept. 28. An opening is set for Oct. 21.

Mr. Wexler is survived by daughters Erica and Merin, and one granddaughter, Variety reported.

-- By Kenneth Jones