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Blacklisted screenwriter-turned-gunrunner William W. Norton dead

UPI News Service, 10/10/2010 

Blacklisted action movie screenwriter-turned-gunrunner William W. Norton has died in Santa Barbara, Calif., his son said.

Bill L. Norton told the Los Angeles Times Sunday, Norton, 85, died Oct. 2 of a heart aneurysm.

Norton's most popular movie was "The Scalphunters," a 1968 comedy-Western starring Burt Lancaster and Ossie Davis. He also wrote several Burt Reynolds pictures including "Sam Whiskey," "White Lightning" and "Gator."

Norton was born Sept. 24, 1925 in Ogden, Utah, and moved to California with his parents after the Depression hit, first settling in Berkeley and later in the southern California community of El Monte, the Times said.

He worked as a journalist but found it unfulfilling and switched to construction work. He also joined the Communist Party in 1946 after serving in Europe with the Army during World War II.

Norton found work with the California State Park Service and wrote on the side until he was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee to name names, which he wouldn't do, the Times said.

In 1985, Norton retired from scriptwriting out of a desire, his son said, to "do something important with his life." That meant gun-running for revolutionaries in Guatemala and Northern Ireland.

After being arrested for smuggling guns to the IRA, Norton served 19 months of a 4-year prison sentence, and in 1988 was granted asylum in Nicaragua. He and his wife later moved to Cuba but lost his passion for communism after watching Castro's failure to deal with famine, the Times said.

Norton secretly re-entered the United States in 1990, settling in Santa Barbara.

"He had no regard for wealth," his son said. "He drove crappy cars even when he had money and dressed in old clothes. He was not the typical Hollywood hustler."

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