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Uncapie Says Good Bye To Jack B. Sowards, WRATH OF KHAN Scripter

Hey, I'm Uncapie... Gifted storyteller and screenwriter, Jack Sowards, passed away of Lou Gehrig's Disease at 78. He was my mentor. He was my friend. Born in Texarkana, Arkansas on March 18, 1929, Jack was one-of-a-kind. As a child, he was involved in all things most boys like. Climbing trees, running through fields, swimming in the local lake and excelling at sports. Even playing tennis with his buddy; a future multi-billionaire, named Ross Perot. But, one summer he contracted a rare lung disease and was bedridden for almost a year. He discovered books and writing. After, high school, he enlisted in the army and participated in the Berlin Airlift making sure that the destitute and poor had food during the Allied reconstruction in 1949. After his service was up, he enlisted in the Navy because he wanted to see more of the world. Three years later, he entered the U.S. Air Force and became a chief mechanic on F-86's. Some of the aircraft he worked on were used in the film, "The Hunters" with Robert Mitchum and Robert Wagner. With enough service to his country behind him, he wanted to see the United States next. He became a field worker picking crops wherever the job took him. Sometimes it was vegetables, cotton or wheat. He learned a lot about the United States and its people. His journey led him to Hollywood and supported himself as a photographer and a furniture mover with a then unknown actor who would inspire many of us in a film called, "Robinson Crusoe On Mars." That actor was Paul Mantee. He'd hang out at the soda fountains at the now defunct and legendary Schwab's Drugstore and Googie's taking turns buying cokes and burgers with the other actors named James Dean and Dennis Hopper. Through Dennis, Jack decided to try out for a part in the San Diego Playhouse production of, "Othello." He got the part of "Iago" and played along side Dennis and another up-and-coming actor named, Michael Forrest to rave reviews. Critics loved his delivery and the constant rubbing of his left hand with his right thumb when he was plotting evil was thought to be a great device on stage. But, with Jack, there was always a story. Dennis Hopper had run his rapier through Jack's left hand during rehearsals and he needed stitches because of it. Rather than bandage it up and tell the stage manager for fear of losing the job, he threw a little make-up on it and continued with all the performances. It wasn't that he was rubbing his hand as a plot device; it was because it hurt like hell! After the play ended, so did the money coming in. With a wife and a baby on the way, Jack went back to moving furniture. But, as luck would have it, he ran into the late producer/director Burt Topper who needed an actor to film two movies at American International Pictures. Those two films were "Tank Commandos" shot on the old M-G-M backlot European town sets and "Hell Squad" filmed out in the Mojave desert. Jack portrayed radioman, "Private Todd" who was the whiner in a group of tough G.I.'s sent in to destroy a bridge. The total budget of the film was $75,000.00 shot in eight days. < BR>
Sowards on a video cover.

In "Hell Squad," he was a German soldier posing as an American because he could speak a smattering of German. Not only did he act, he also did many of the special effects. That was a budget of $50,000.00 shot in five days. It was at this time, he decided to be a writer. He wrote five scripts for television and only one was purchased for the series, "Daniel Boone" starring Fess Parker. But, one was all he needed. He had talent and people recognized it. He then wrote for "Bonanza," "The Bold Ones" and the "High Chapparal" with a smattering of other scripts that were bought for tv shows, but were never filmed. I was fortunate to read his script for "Combat!" and it would have been one of the best episodes next to "Hills Are For Heroes." Jack Sowards had the gift of writing. Years later, the acting bug would bite him one last time where he played the town cop on the TV series, "Peyton Place" while writing movies-of the-week such as "Deliver Us From Evil," "Death Cruise" and a western called, "Desperate Women." He was also nominated twice for an Emmy for his work. He then became story editor on "Streets Of San Francisco," "Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer" and "B.L. Stryker." He taught screen writing classes at Santa Monica College and UCLA. This is where I met him and he taught me to write. I was the only one who got an A in a class of twelve. Years later, he would always joke with me saying, "Of course I gave you an 'A.' I felt sorry for you for writing that bullshit 'Battlestar Galactica' script." Swell. I think he just used to do it to get a kick out of me turning red of embarrassment. It was last week though, his daughter presented me with a short story I wrote that I had long forgot about in his class. Out of all the years he had taught screen writing and all the scripts and short stories he had to grade; mine was the only one he saved. It was a very heartfelt moment. It now rests in a frame over my desk. I asked what he was working on next. "Its a space western. You'll like it." But, he'd never tell me what it was. It was "Star Trek II: the Wrath Of Khan." The best, by far, of all the "Trek" movies and it was typed on a computer that Jack had built himself when the Commodore 64 was thought of state-of-the art. Jack went peacefully with his wife holding his hand. His family was there when it happened and I am very proud that I am a part of them. He was a good man. To sum up Jack Sowards, I quote a line from "Star Trek II: the Wrath Of Khan:" "You will always be my friend, as I am yours." Uncapie

Readers Talkback
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  • July 10, 2007, 9:03 a.m. CST


    by terrytips


  • July 10, 2007, 9:03 a.m. CST


    by terrytips


  • July 10, 2007, 9:04 a.m. CST

    He is not really dead as long as we remember him

    by Fourthwall

  • July 10, 2007, 9:05 a.m. CST

    Obituaries make me sad.

    by terrytips

    RIP. Wrath of Khan is the only Star Trek film I have seen all the way through. And it was awesome!

  • July 10, 2007, 9:11 a.m. CST


    by iwontwin

    will be missed!

  • July 10, 2007, 9:23 a.m. CST


    by schnorbis

    Jack Sowards sounds like a pretty decent guy. My sympathies go out to his family and friends.

  • July 10, 2007, 9:24 a.m. CST

    Good Bye Mr. Sowards

    by Kajisan

    We will remember him !!

  • July 10, 2007, 9:34 a.m. CST

    I have been, and ever shall be... your friend

    by BendersShinyAss

    live long & prosper... <br> Trek 2 is the only reason we actually had trek

  • July 10, 2007, 9:34 a.m. CST

    A wonderfully written tribute.

    by Phildogger

    Sorry for your loss. May he rest in peace.

  • July 10, 2007, 9:44 a.m. CST

    Well said farewell to a friend

    by CaptainWalker

    He would be proud.

  • July 10, 2007, 9:50 a.m. CST

    Wonderful tribute

    by Currencyboy

    to your friend. And a sad loss. Khan was by far the best of the Trek films. R.I.P

  • July 10, 2007, 10:02 a.m. CST

    Nice piece, Uncapie

    by Col. Tigh-Fighter


  • July 10, 2007, 10:04 a.m. CST

    Lovely obituary

    by Mister McClane

    Don't read such genuine words of affection very often. Nice.

  • July 10, 2007, 10:25 a.m. CST

    Goodbye Mr. Sowards, thanks for the great work.

    by StudioPlant69


  • July 10, 2007, 10:36 a.m. CST

    Don't mince words Bones, tell me what you really think!

    by Bill Brasky

    "Here's to Bill Brasky!"

  • July 10, 2007, 10:47 a.m. CST

    What a great obit

    by indyjonez100

    You don't read too many stories like this guy anymore. Anymore, people are too soft and lazy to go out and do what this guy did in a lifetime. Sympathy to his family and friends.

  • July 10, 2007, 10:47 a.m. CST


    by ByTor

    Didn't Nick Meyer ultimately write TWOK? I know he didn't get screen credit but I thought the Sowards script was one that was ultimately not used (though elements were taken from it and used in Meyer's final script).<P>Just trying to set the record straight.

  • July 10, 2007, 11:12 a.m. CST

    I'm proud, very proud... to have watched that film.

    by No.6

    Astonishing person.

  • July 10, 2007, 11:21 a.m. CST

    Nicholas Meyer

    by EjkoUSC

    It was never really clear how much of Star Trek II, Sowards was responsible for. Director Nicholas Meyer never got screen credit for it, but it was he who apparently did the frantically famous top to bottom rewrite of the script that suddenly Harve Bennett, William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy went nuts over. Meyer should have been given Co-Writer credit since he was the wonderkid of that movie. But thats just a bit of history. I will check out Sowards work for sure. Farewell.

  • July 10, 2007, 11:38 a.m. CST

    Beautifully written, Uncapie

    by RenoNevada2000

    While we may have lost another piece of Hollywood's past, you have lost a friend, and that is the greater sadness. My condolences.

  • July 10, 2007, 11:47 a.m. CST

    Thanks, Uncapie-- that was excellent

    by Yack Backer

    Rest in peace, Mr. Sowards.

  • July 10, 2007, 12:01 p.m. CST


    by Pogue__Mahone

    That was a lovely little remembrance. Thanks you. Now I know a little about the talented man who wrote one of my favourite films.

  • July 10, 2007, 12:05 p.m. CST

    Nice Uncapie

    by NachoNegro

    gives you an essence of the man, without being invasive. I have to admit, before he was just a name to me - now I know something of him, and that's a good thing. RIP JBS.

  • July 10, 2007, 12:19 p.m. CST

    So many great lines from Star Trek II

    by Tacom

    "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one." "I'll leave you as you left me. As you left her. Buried alive. BURIED ALIVE!" I know Myer put in a lot of the literary stuff like the Moby Dick and A Tale of Two Cities quotes. I'm sure Soward put in all the great stuff with the Kirk and the crew. The interaction between the old cast was way better than in the first.

  • July 10, 2007, 12:42 p.m. CST


    by theonecalledshoe

    The man sure as heck carried on in the services.

  • July 10, 2007, 1:33 p.m. CST

    Thank You Jack, and Thank You Uncapie

    by BNITT

    Thank You Jack...I loved Star Trek II and always wondered why they didnt use you on all the sequels. Rest in peace. Live long and prosper.

  • July 10, 2007, 1:57 p.m. CST

    Thanks, guys

    by AmandaSo

    On behalf of my sisters, our good friends, and myself, thanks for your kind thoughts. He was a presence, and he will be missed. ~Amanda Sowards~

  • July 10, 2007, 2:02 p.m. CST

    He inspired me

    by exie

    The first screenplay I ever purchased was Wrath of Khan and I learned what a screenplay looked like from him. The dialogue and storytelling in Wrath of Khan are brilliant. It's a shining star that the series has never lived up (and in my opinion never will live up to) again. RIP Jack and thanks for the tribute Uncapie.

  • July 10, 2007, 2:27 p.m. CST

    Do you see this man's resume? I mean all the

    by Borgnine JR

    life experience he had? That's why his stuff works. He learned about life by living it. He didn't expect a school to teach him all he needed to learn. Writers of today take note!

  • July 10, 2007, 3:02 p.m. CST

    Excellent obit/tribute!

    by Doctor_Sin

    Thanks - nice to be enlightened to the extensive resumes these guys carry with them.

  • July 10, 2007, 3:44 p.m. CST

    Wow - Great writeup Uncappie

    by tristeele

    Sorry for your loss. Ive never been a huge Trek fan- but something about Wrath of Kahn always stayed with me. Id put it in my 5 favorite pictures. The movie isn't just scifi or action - its heartfelt with good humor as well. Its a great MOVIE without need of a genre label. Thanks again for the writeup and once again Im very sorry for your loss.

  • July 10, 2007, 5:26 p.m. CST


    by AmandaSo

    There are a few factual errors in the above post that I, as Jack's daughter, feel compelled to correct. First, my father was never in the Army. He enlisted first in the Marines, then the Navy, then the Air Force. I only make this correction because, as anyone who has ever been a Marine will tell you, confusing the Marines with "the Army" could incite one mother of a barfight. Second, my father did not die with "his wife" holding his hand. It makes a pretty story, but it is not the truth, and I must correct it, because the care and tending of my father in his last days was done primarily by my sister, Penny, and not by my EX-stepmother (from whom my father had been divorced for over 20 years). My sister devoted unselfishly and with unwaivering dedication a kind of care for my father that no other family member (including myself) was able to give him. Her mother put in very litte time and energy to his care until the very end. Caring for an ALS patient in the final stages is the most difficult thing I can imagine. It's an evil, cruel disease and Penny met the challenge and managed to keep the rest of us together in the bargain. She is more than a hero, she's a freakin' saint, and she deserves to be acknowledged for her unbelievable fortitude and dedication in my father's last days. The efforts of the rest of us pale in comparison to hers. And that is the complete truth. ~Amanda Sowards~

  • July 10, 2007, 6:01 p.m. CST

    Thank you, Amanda Sowards.

    by Uncapie

    Without question, you and Penny did an outstanding job taking care of Jack, especially Penny. As I was unaware of situation with the "wife/ex-wife" scenario, I stand corrected and I apologize. All I know is, I saw a lot of love by his family there in his last hours. This was a man who inspired many people, young and old, with his work. That inspiration is what drives us to become whatever we wish to be. That is what I with many others will always remember for and that's a pretty good legacy to leave behind.

  • July 10, 2007, 8:14 p.m. CST

    This hurts almost as much as Spock's death...

    by Billyeveryteen

    Well done.

  • July 10, 2007, 9:01 p.m. CST

    They hired a Man to do a Geek's job

    by Laserbrain

    And Star Trek 2 remains a classic these 25 years on because of it, resonating more strongly to ageing geeks like myself with every passing year. Great work, Mr Sowards. You are already being missed.

  • July 10, 2007, 9:05 p.m. CST

    Great tribute

    by Goonie

    I am very saddened by this news, but man, WHAT AN AMAZING LIFE! Well written Uncapie!

  • July 11, 2007, 12:39 a.m. CST


    by EjkoUSC

    Apparently you've never watched a DVD in your life or read a book. I first heard the whole story in Shatner's book Star Trek Movie Memories. Detailed explanations by Meyer, Bennett, Nimoy, and Shatner themselves. THEN the Star Trek II DVD comes out with interviews YOU CAN WATCH (dummy) with the same people saying the exact same story. Nimoy READING MEYER'S REWRITE on the plane on his way to a shoot in Israel. Meyer's rewrite is what got him to commit to the picture. I certainly didnt change the tone (if it has been changed on this forum). You did. So lets change it back. I dont even read Starlog. Sorry I only get it from the actual interviews of the people involved. Some credible source huh? Dont be an asshole.

  • July 11, 2007, 1:46 p.m. CST


    by NNNOOO!!!

    The point is, this isn't the place for that discussion.

  • July 11, 2007, 2:45 p.m. CST


    by EjkoUSC

    Fair enough. If thats your point then thats a fair point. But that's not what randie was standing for. He/she just has a problem with rumor-mongering (which I'm not doing). Thats his/her hang up.

  • July 12, 2007, 10:31 p.m. CST


    by Uncapie

    Just to make sure that is clarified: his EX-WIFE was there, not WIFE. I want to thank all of you for your kind wishes and posts on Jack. You have all been instrumental in making the entire Sowards family get through a most difficult time. Jack would have been proud, very proud, of all of you for the kind words and most of all, having made an impact on your lives with his work. As one poster stated above in a line of dialogue from "Star Trek II: the Wrath Of Khan:" "He's not really long as we remember him." Jack Sowards was my friend and mentor. He will always be my friend and mentor. I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for your kindness.

  • July 15, 2007, 12:33 p.m. CST

    Army? Wife?

    by cooperscooper

    I knew Jack pretty well. I knew he had been divorced for at least a couple decades or so. Was there a new wife? Right on! How ooooooollllld is she? And as for being in the army, I know he was a Marine. Semper Fi is never Hoorah. Not ever. Still, a sweet fanciful send off.

  • July 18, 2007, 4:05 p.m. CST

    Can they launch him to Genesis?

    by awmps

    or did he forget to give someone his Kattra?

  • July 19, 2007, 5:47 a.m. CST

    AmandaSo see Memory Alpha, the free Star Trek reference

    by Vocalowl

    The entry on your father is incorrect. It has him going into the Army. Having been born in the forties I have appreciated your fathers writing on some of the earlier tv shows. I went to a special showing of Tron followed by Star Trek II - The Wrath of Kahn here in Hollywood and I must say, everyone there agreeded it is the best of those films. If your writing here is any indication it looks like you may have the writing talent gene also. Give it a try, if you are not already a writer. May he rest in peace.