Thursday, September 30, 2010
It seems his full name was Phillip (sic) George Rock, born in Los Angeles on 30 July 1927, the son of Joe Rock (1893-1984) and his wife Louise Granville (1895-1968). Joe Rock, 5' 3" with protruding ears, was a comic actor in the silent movie days (1915-26), sometimes appearing as Joe Basil. He became better known as a writer, producer and director working with Stan Laurel in the mid-1920s. In 1933 he produced the documentary Krakatoa for his own MultiColor Productions, which won an Oscar for Best Short Subject. In the mid-1930s he was based in the UK at Rock Studios, Borehamwood, Herts., where Alfred Hitchcock filmed Crook's Tour and John Baxter directed Love on the Dole (both 1941). His Joe Rock Productions company also made a number of films in England in the 1930s. Rock-Price Productions later filmed the documentary Mau-Mau (1955).
Philip Rock came from a show business family, his mother an Australian-born actress and his uncle, Murray Rock, an assistant director on a number of Stan Laurel, Laurel & Hardy and Charlie Chaplin movies. His older sister Felippa Rock (1924- ), was an actress—her most famous role being 11th on the cast list of Curt Siodmak's Bride of the Gorilla—and married actor Michael Pate in 1951 (their son, Christopher Pate, also became an actor).
Phillip grew up in Beverly Hills and England, returning to America in 1940 and serving with the Navy towards the end of World War II. He then worked as a page at CBS and a bit-part actor and film editor while writing screenplays. His first on-screen credit—a story co-credit with his brother-in-law Michael Pate—was for Escape from Fort Bravo (1953), directed by John Sturges and starring William Holden and Eleanor Parker. The two also co-wrote the science fiction story The Steel Monster, which was filmed with a screenplay by Rock and James Leicester as Most Dangerous Man Alive (1961), directed by Allan Dwan and starring Ron Randell and Debra Paget.
Rock then concentrated on writing novels and, in 1967, published The Extraordinary Seaman, which was filmed by MGM in 1969, directed by John Frankenheimer and starring David Niven and Faye Dunaway from Rock's screenplay. The film was poorly received and Rock is said to have vowed never to have another of his books made into a movie.
Instead, Rock reversed the process and wrote a number of film novelisations for Popular Library and Bantam before turning again to writing novels. His Flickers was loosely based on his father's career and was set in 1920s Hollywood, where the seedy Earl P. Donovan rises to the top as a producer.
Rock then produced a trilogy of novels—The Passing Bells, Circles of Time and A Future Arrived—which followed the lives of the Stanmores of Abbingdo, an English family whose history Rock charted from the days of World War I to the Jazz era. The first novel was a Book of the Month Club alternate selection.
Rock died in Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles, California, on 3 April 2004, aged 76, of complications from cancer. He was survived by his son, Kevin, and two grandchildren.
The Extraordinary Seaman. New York, Meredith Press, Sep 1967; London, Souvenir Press, 1967.
The Dead in Guanajuato. New York, Meredith Press, Dec 1968.
Tick... Tick... Tick (novelisation of the movie). New York, Popular Library, Feb 1970.
The Cheyenne Social Club (novelisation of the movie). New York, Popular Library, Jul 1970.
Dirty Harry (novelisation of the movie). New York, Bantam, Dec 1971; London, Star, 1977.
A Gunfight (novelisation of the movie). New York, Bantam, Jun 1971; London, Corgi, Sep 1971.
Hickey and Boggs (novelisation of the movie). New York, Popular Library, Nov 1972.
High Plains Drifter (by Ernest Tidyman; novelisation of the movie). New York, Bantam, May 1973.
Flickers. New York, Dodd, Mead, 1977.
The Passing Bells. Seaview Books, 1978 [Mar 1979]; London, Hodder & Stoughton, Apr 1979.
Circles of Time. New York, Seaview Books, Jun 1981; London, Hodder & Stoughton, Mar 1982.
A Future Arrived. New York, Seaview Books, 1984 [Jan 1985]; London, Hodder & Stoughton, Apr 1985.