A Main Line novelist’s feisty daughter is fighting to preserve his legacy — if she can get Paul Newman’s help
Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the publication of Merion novelist Richard Powell’s The Philadelphian, a polemical soap opera about class warfare on the Main Line. In 1959 the book was turned into the film The Young Philadelphians, with a studly Paul Newman as the brash young lawyer from the wrong side of the tracks who takes on Philly’s blue bloods. While reviews were tepid, the film helped cement Newman’s leading-man status.
Now the author’s daughter, Dorothy Powell Quigley, wants Newman to return the favor. Having successfully waged a one-woman crusade to get the book back in print in 2006, she’s now set her sights on convincing Hollywood to remake The Young Philadelphians in time for the film’s golden anniversary next year. “I have no idea what it would mean for me financially,” she says. “I just know it would make me feel great.”
Richard Powell wrote 18 books from 1943 to 1970. Three years ago, Charles Ardai, co-founder of specialty publisher Hard Case Crime, discovered the comically noirish Say It With Bullets and contacted Quigley for the rights to republish it. Realizing she had a treasure trove of forgotten literature on her hands, Quigley began badgering assorted publishers and film companies to republish others or buy movie rights. In May, Stark House Press will publish a volume featuring two more titles.
Getting The Young Philadelphians remade is another story. Jack Warner paid $100,000 for the original film rights, and Powell cashed in again when his novel Pioneer, Go Home! was turned into Follow That Dream with Elvis Presley in 1962. But getting a film green-lit today involves a labyrinth of red tape, big money and Tinseltown politicking. Undaunted, Quigley sent a new edition of the book to Newman and has enlisted Caitlin Vaughn, the daughter of Young Philadelphians co-star Robert Vaughn, to help. “Look, I’m an old lady, I’m not working, and I think there’s a lot of good material here,” Quigley says, explaining her quest. “It’s challenging. But I am determined to get his name back on the screen.”