Underrated Genius?

The lanky nondescript white guy above is responsible for arguably one of the most iconic movies of the 1990’s, Jurassic Park, and also one of the most popular television shows, E.R., of that same time period. A Hall of Fame career for anyone involved in Hollywood.

Michael Crichton always had the ability to write.  At the age of 14 he had an article about travel published in the New York Times.  So while his friends were trading baseball cards and coping with puberty Crichton was being published by the country’s most well known newspaper.  No big deal.  To the surprise of no one, Crichton was accepted to Harvard, where he originally intended to continue his writing career.  An academic detour derailed those plans though and Michael did a total about face and changed his major to biology, essentially becoming a pre-med student.

Having attended a prestigious high school and college I feel like I’ve come across my fair share of brilliant individuals.  Most of them though tend to excel in one discipline, be it math, writing, or science.  For Crichton though going down a completely different academic path was no trouble at all.  He graduated Phi Beta Kappa and was accepted into Harvard’s Medical School.  No big deal.

Crichton became disenchanted with the medical field though, and once again shifted his focus back to writing, as if he was just turning around in a car.  Crichton broke through with his fourth novel, The Andromeda Strain, which made him a best seller.  For those of you keeping score at home by 27 Crichton had been published in the NY Times, graduated Harvard’s undergraduate program, Harvard’s medical school, and written a best selling book.  By 27 I was happy to be living on my own, paying rent, and remembering to DVR The Office.

Score:  Crichton 4,537  Adams 12

After the success of the Andromeda Strain Crichton wrote notable novels such as The Great Train Robbery, Congo, Sphere, Disclosure, and Rising Sun.  The books weren’t just related to science/medical field though.  Crichton’s books tackled history, crime, drama, sexual harassment, space, and genetics.  Most authors, who began their working career’s in a previous field stick to a subject matter they are most familiar with, an example being John Grisham, who has written countless thrillers all centered around the law profession.  Before becoming a best selling author Grisham was a lawyer.  Michael Lewis would be another example.

In 1990 Crichton wrote Jurassic Park.  By 1993 the world’s most famous movie director, Steven Spielberg, had brought Crichton’s novel to the big screen.  Crichton didn’t stand on the sidelines though throughout the creative process.  He is credited for helping adapt his book into the screenplay that was used.  Unless you’ve been living in North Korea for the last 20 years you know that Jurassic Park was one of the most commercially successful films of the 90s.  The film was so successful that the new Toronto NBA team selected the Raptors to be its mascot.  As far as I know the city of Toronto and the NBA have as much a connection to the Velociraptor as I do to Kate Middleton.  Jurassic Park has remained relevant as evidenced by the fact that it is going to be re-released in IMAX 3D.  An impressive feet considering all the advancements that have been made in film making thanks to Peter Jackson and James Cameron.

In 1994 Crichton created and helped develop the successful medical drama ER, a television show that lasted 14 seasons.  The original pilot was written by Crichton, who only wrote three episodes, but stayed on as an executive producer.  ER launched the careers of George Clooney and Juliana Margulies, allowed Noah Wyle to make all the weird sci-fi TNT movies he wanted, and even gave John Stamos a steady paycheck for the first time post Full House.

With the success of ER in 1994 Crichton had a number one move, Jurassic Park, number one television show ER, and the number one selling book in Disclosure.  I don’t know where I could go to confirm this, but I don’t know of anyone else ever holding that distinction.  By 1994 Michael Crichton was a true Hollywood triple threat.

In total Crichton wrote 26 novels, 10 short stories, and four non-fictions books.  He had 15 of his novels adapted to film, directed four movies, created one hit television show, and helped write the screenplay for Twister.  Can’t win them all I guess.  Even with most of his time being spent in Hollywood Crichton also found time to go to Washington to speak intelligently on the matters of genetics and climate change.  Whether or not you believe his views are another matter (Crichton didn’t believe humans had a lot to do with global warming).

If there was one area Crichton seemed to fall short it was with his personal relationships and subtly.  Crichton was married on five times, four of which ended in divorce.  As for being subtle, or lack there of the best example comes from Crichton’s conflict with journalist and Yale graduate Michael Crowley, who was vocally opposed to Crichton’s views on global warming.  Crichton fought back by creating a character called Mick Crawley in one of his final novels Next.  The character was a columinst and Yale graduate who also had a small penis and a lust for children.  Michael Crawley didn’t find the character very funny and decided to sue Crichton.  Personally, I think it is pretty hysterical to get back at someone not so subtly in a best selling book.

Crichton died in 2008 from cancer and since then it seems like his genius has been forgotten.  Maybe I was too young at the time to know if Crichton was being given his just due, but either way once in a while it’s important to look back and salute those that were truly special.  So thanks Michael for all the great books that got me through summer camp and for scaring the shit out of me in fourth grade.


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