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Ira Levin; Wrote 'Rosemary's Baby'

Then came "Deathtrap," a wry and twisty thriller about a has-been playwright who thinks of killing a young writer to steal his play. It was nominated for a 1978 Tony Award for best play and resurrected Mr. Levin's stature on Broadway, even though the show was not universally admired by critics.

Meanwhile, Mr. Levin had established himself as a gifted novelist of the occult with "Rosemary's Baby" (1967), based in part on his wife's pregnancy but with a major tweak -- the baby of the title is the spawn of Satan.

The story is about witches in a Manhattan apartment building who conspire to create a little devil within an unwitting mother's womb. Yet there also remains the question of whether Rosemary, a lapsed Catholic, might be hallucinating the terror as a form of religious guilt.

The book sold 5 million copies and was widely translated, including into Maltese. Director Roman Polanski's acclaimed 1968 screen version starred Mia Farrow, Ruth Gordon and John Cassavetes.

After the book came out, Mr. Levin told Publishers Weekly he had refused to let his wife read the manuscript and, maybe as a publicity ploy, advised the same to other pregnant women. However, he added: "The obstetrician did read it and loved it."

"The Stepford Wives" (1972), about a Connecticut town where men kill their wives and replace them with robots designed to please them, was written while Mr. Levin was undergoing a divorce.

An article on cloning from the New York Times provided the kernel for "The Boys From Brazil" (1976), which featured Nazi doctor Josef Mengele implanting genetic material from Hitler into the wombs of South American peasant women.

Mr. Levin once defended his literary style to the New York Times: "My books are more theatrical than the other way around. I think in terms of scenes rather than chapters. Critics have accused me of writing books with an eye to the movies. I'm really writing for the stage."

His marriages to Gabrielle Aronsohn Levin and Phyllis Finkel Levin ended in divorce.

Survivors include three sons from the first marriage, Adam Levin-Delson of Bothell, Wash., and Jared Levin and Nicholas Levin, both of New York; a sister; and three grandchildren.


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