Oscar-winning ‘Room With A View’ Screenwriter Dead At 85

Kara Warner
Movie Talk
Jesus Franco
Jesus Franco

Critically-lauded and award-winning novelist and "Howard's End" screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala passed away Wednesday at her home in New York City. Her daughter Firoza told the L.A. Times Jhabvala died after battling a long illness. She was 85.

Over the course of her very successful professional life, the German-born author and screenwriter wrote 12 novels, eight short story collections and 23 screenplays. Jhabvala's screenwriting career was born out of her work as a novelist, when in 1961 the newly-formed filmmaking duo of producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory traveled from New York to Delhi to ask Jhabvala to sell them her book "The Householder" and to also pen the screenplay. That meeting led to a long friendship and many fruitful collaborations for Merchant Ivory Productions, which included Jhabvala's Oscar-winning adaptations of "A Room with a View" in 1985 and "Howard's End" in 1992, as well as scripts for "The Bostonians" and "The Remains of the Day."

Jhabvala did not let her success in Hollywood affect her in any way as she preferred writing her own fiction. "I live so much more in and for the books," she wrote to a friend in a letter obtained by the UK's Guardian newspaper. The paper called her storytelling abilities "brilliant" and praised her writing for its complexity, particularly in her portrayal of the "ambiguities of human behavior and the pleasures of the senses."

Her literary work, much of which was set in India where she lived for two decades, was critically-acclaimed. Jhabvala's eighth novel "Heat and Dust" was awarded Britain's prestigious Booker Award in 1975. She kept writing up until the end of her life; her short story "A Judge's Will" was published in last month's New Yorker.