Frank De Felitta, 'Audrey Rose' Author and Screenwriter, Dies at 94

Courtesy of Dorothy De Felitta

The novelist, director and producer, a big believer in reincarnation, is survived by his son, who helmed the recent ABC telefilm 'Madoff.'

Frank De Felitta, who wrote the best-selling horror novel Audrey Rose and then adapted it for the 1977 movie starring Anthony Hopkins and Marsha Mason, has died. He was 94.

De Felitta died March 30 in Los Angeles, according to his son, Raymond De Felitta, the writer and director of the 2009 film City Island who helmed the recent ABC telefilm Madoff.

Audrey Rose, published in 1975, centers on a couple faced with the grim reality that their 10-year-old daughter might be the reincarnated child — who had died in a fiery car crash — of another man. The film, which De Felitta also co-produced, was directed by Robert Wise.

De Felitta has said that Audrey Rose and its 1982 sequel were inspired by Raymond, then 6, whom he discovered playing ragtime music on a piano despite never having taken a lesson.

“We went in and there was Raymond at the piano, going like the devil,” he told People magazine in 1976. “We were shocked. In fact, we were scared. Raymond said his fingers were doing it.”

De Felitta consulted an occultist, who told him that "Raymond was one of those souls who had been through many lifetimes," he said in the People story. He became a big believer in reincarnation.

But in a recent interview with The New York Times, Raymond De Felitta explained, “I’m a pianist, and he was inspired to write because I was gifted at a young age.”

 

Frank De Felitta later wrote a novel and the screenplay for The Entity (1982), starring Barbara Hershey, and wrote and directed Scissors (1991), toplined by Sharon Stone. Like Audrey Rose, they were horror thrillers as well.

De Felitta also wrote the films Anzio (1968), starring Robert Mitchum; Z.P.G. (1972), with Oliver Reed; and The Savage Is Loose (1974), featuring George C. Scott,

A native of the Bronx, De Felitta served as a pilot during World War II, then wrote for the radio series The Whistler and for such TV anthology series as Tales of Tomorrow and Armstrong Circle Theatre.

In 1965, De Felitta directed an NBC documentary, Mississippi: A Self Portrait, in which Booker Wright, a black waiter, spoke passionately about the harsh treatment he had received by customers in a whites-only restaurant in Greenwood, Miss. Wright wound up getting fired and later was murdered.

With the help of Wright's granddaughter, Raymond De Felitta examined the incident with the 2012 Tribeca Film documentary Booker’s Place: A Mississippi Story.

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