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Peter Masterson, the actor, director and writer from Houston known for his wide-ranging work on The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, The Trip to Bountiful, The Exorcist and The Stepford Wives, has died. He was 84.
Masterson suffered from Parkinson’s disease and died Wednesday at his home in Kinderhook, New York, after a fall, the Houston Chronicle reported.
In The Stepford Wives (1975), Masterson portrayed Walter Eberhart, the husband of Katharine Ross’ character, and his real-life daughter, Mary Stuart Masterson, played 8-year-old Kim.
In the Chronicle article, the actress called Masterson “the best father imaginable and a real inspiration to me creatively, and in every way.”
Masterson and Larry L. King wrote the book for The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, about a brothel in La Grange called the Chicken Ranch, and made its way to Broadway in June 1978. His wife, Carlin Glynn, starred as Mona Stangley in the play and won a Tony Award. They were married for 58 years, and she survives him.
Masterson also directed the production with fellow Houstonian Tommy Tune and earned two Tony nominations and a Drama Desk Award for his work.
Best Little Whorehouse ran for more than 1,500 performances in its original Broadway run and was adapted for a 1982 Universal film that starred Burt Reynolds and, as Mona, Dolly Parton. (Masterson was supposed to direct the film as well but was replaced by Colin Higgins.)
In 1985, Masterson made his feature directorial debut with The Trip to Bountiful, which was adapted from a play by frequent collaborator Horton Foote, who then wrote the screenplay. Geraldine Page received the best actress Oscar for her performance in the movie.
In William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1973), Masterson portrayed the clinic director who suggests a way to save a young girl (Linda Blair) seemingly possessed by the devil.
“Have you ever heard of exorcism?” he says to Ellen Burstyn’s character. “It’s a stylized ritual in which rabbis or priests try to drive out the so-called invading spirit. It’s pretty much discarded these days, except by the Catholics, who keep it in the closet as a sort of embarrassment. It has worked, in fact, although not for the reason they think, of course. It was purely the force of suggestion. The victim’s belief in possession helped cause it. And just in the same way, this belief in the power of exorcism can make it disappear.”
Born Carlos Bee Masterson Jr. on June 1, 1934, he attended Rice University before moving to New York City in the 1950s to pursue acting.
He appeared on episodes of Chrysler Theatre and Death Valley Days in 1966 and had a role in Norman Jewison’s best picture winner In the Heat of the Night (1967).
Masterson also starred on Broadway in the 1960s in Marathon ’33, The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald (as John F. Kennedy’s assassin) and as the sportswriter Smitty in The Great White Hope.
Masterson went on to direct other films, including Full Moon in Blue Water (1988), starring Gene Hackman and Teri Garr; Night Game (1989), with Roy Scheider; Convicts (1991), starring Robert Duvall (also from a Foote play and screenplay); Arctic Blue (1993), with Rutger Hauer; The Only Thrill (1997), starring Diane Keaton and Sam Shepard; and Whiskey School (2005), starring Olympia Dukakis.
He directed Mary Stuart Masterson again in 1996 in another Foote adaptation, the Texas-set Hallmark-Showtime telefilm Lily Dale.
Rhett Bartlett contributed to this report.
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