Norman Wexler, 73, a screenwriter and playwright whose work included "Saturday Night Fever" and "Serpico," died Aug. 23 at his home in Washington after a heart attack.

The Harvard College graduate wrote movies and plays that exposed life's grit. In 1970, he received his first Oscar nomination for the movie "Joe," starring Susan Sarandon and Peter Boyle, about a racist factory worker and his search for a businessman's hippie daughter.

That movie also brought him a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts.

Mr. Wexler earned more praise for "Serpico" in 1973, a screenplay based on the true story of a New York police officer's battles against corruption in the police department. He then wrote "Drum" and "Mandingo" before garnering more awards for the blockbuster "Saturday Night Fever." The Oscar-nominated script explored the life of a store clerk, played by John Travolta, who submerged himself in the world of disco.

In his later career, Mr. Wexler tallied a few flops, including "Staying Alive," the sequel to "Saturday Night Fever," and "Raw Deal," starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Mr. Wexler, who suffered from manic depression, was arrested by the FBI in 1972 after he said he planned to shoot President Richard M. Nixon.

Mr. Wexler was born in New Bedford, Mass., and raised in Detroit. He spent most of his adult life in Greenwich, Conn., before moving to Washington two years ago.

Survivors include two daughters, Erica and Merin of New York, and a sister, Janet Rosen, of Detroit.