Sanford, John 1904-2003 (Julian L. Shapiro, John B. Sanford)
SANFORD, John 1904-2003 (Julian L. Shapiro, John B. Sanford)
OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born May 31, 1904, in New York, NY; died of an aortic aneurism March 6, 2003, in Santa Barbara, CA. Author. Sanford was a critically acclaimed novelist who later created a unique blend of fiction, history, and autobiography in vignette collections. After attending Lafayette College for a year, he earned his LL.B. from Fordham University in 1927. A friend, author Nathanael West, inspired him to write, and after practicing law from 1928 to 1936 he finally abandoned it to become a full-time author. His first novels include The Water Wheel (1933), and, after legally changing his name from Shapiro to Sanford as prejudice against Jews grew, The Old Man's Place (1935), Seventy Times Seven (1939), and The People from Heaven (1943). His writing drew the attention of movie studios, and he signed a six-month contract with Paramount. But his wife, screenwriter Marguerite "Maggie" Roberts, encouraged him to continue writing novels instead. Unfortunately, Sanford's membership in the Communist Party not only put him on the blacklist of the House Un-American Activities Committee, but it also put a halt to his wife's film career. During the 1950s both writers were prevented from producing any work. By the 1960s, however, the blacklist restrictions eased and Sanford began to write again. He was tiring of novels, however, and instead began to focus on historical vignettes, assuming the voice of historical characters, both famous and ordinary, in pieces that blended fiction with history. A More Goodly Country: A Personal History of America (1975) was the first collection of these vignettes to be published. This was followed by such historical works as View from This Wilderness: American Literature as History (1977) and To Feed Their Hopes: A Book of American Women (1980). Later in his life, especially after his wife's death in 1989, Sanford focused on autobiography, publishing the acclaimed four-volume work Scenes from the Life of an American Jew (1985-91), Maggie: A Love Story (1993), and A Palace of Silver (2001), among other books. His The Color of Air, the first volume of his four-volume autobiography, won a PEN award.
OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:
Los Angeles Times, March 8, 2003, p. B20.
Washington Post, March 11, 2003, p. B7.