Nora Johnson, 'World of Henry Orient' Novelist and Screenwriter, Dies at 84

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Nora Johnson

She teamed with her father, Nunnally Johnson of 'Grapes of Wrath' fame, on the movie adaptation.

Nora Johnson, who adapted her novel The World of Henry Orient for the popular 1964 big-screen adaptation that starred Peter Sellers, has died. She was 84.

Johnson died Thursday in Dallas, one of her daughters, Marion Siwek, told The Hollywood Reporter.

Her father was two-time Oscar nominee Nunnally Johnson, the screenwriter, producer and director behind such Hollywood classics as The Grapes of Wrath, The Three Faces of Eve, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit and The Dirty Dozen.

The World of Henry Orient, first published in 1958 when the author was just 25, came from Johnson's infatuation with Oscar Levant, the witty concert pianist and actor. In her novel, two 13-year-old girls at a Manhattan private school develop a crush on Orient after seeing him in concert and then follow him all around the city.

Sellers portrayed the philandering pianist in the George Roy Hill film, with Tippy Walker and Merrie Spaeth as the students. Angela Lansbury, Tom Bosley and Paula Prentiss also starred. Johnson and her father teamed up for the movie adaptation.

In his review for The New York Times, Bosley Crowther called The World of Henry Orient "one of the most joyous and comforting movies about teenagers that we've had in a long time."

Johnson's novel also served as the basis for a 1967 Broadway musical, Henry, Sweet Henry, with Don Ameche starring as Orient. (Her dad also wrote the book for that production.)

Johnson published several other novels and books, including 2004's Coast to Coast: A Family Romance, about her childhood that included being shuttled between Manhattan and Hollywood. (Her mother, journalist Marion Byrnes, had left her husband when Johnson was very young and often took her to New York.)

Johnson was born in Hollywood, and Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall attended her birthday parties. She graduated from Smith College in 1954.

Survivors include another daughter, Paula, and a son, Justin.