John Herman Shaner

From his obituary, November 5, 2020

Prolific screenwriter and longtime local resident John Herman Shaner died on Oct. 26 of natural causes at the age of 89.

Shaner enjoyed a decades-long career, working in Hollywood since the mid-1950s on jobs that included acting, writing and producing. Shaner’s son, Michael, said his father died while taking an evening walk, something he enjoyed each day in the neighborhoods around his Orlando Avenue home, near the West Hollywood border….

John Shaner grew up in the Bronx and served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War before moving to Los Angeles in the mid-1950s. Attracted by opportunities in show business, Shaner first became an actor and appeared in theatrical productions as well as television shows such as “The Rat Patrol” and “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” He also started writing for television and films and had a big break in 1970 with “Halls of Anger,” about the integration of an all-Black inner-city school. The film’s success gave Shaner recognition and a reputation as a solid storyteller, providing more writing opportunities in the years that followed.

“He was ahead of his time. Busing was a controversial subject back then,” [his son] Michael Shaner said. “It gave him a platform to continue screenwriting, which was his passion.” 

Shaner went on to write screenplays for many successful movies, including the 1970s adaptation of “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” “Zuma Beach,” “The Last Married Couple in America” and “Goin’ South,” starring Jack Nicholson, who became a close friend. Shaner was also close with actor Robert Vaughn and many other members of the Hollywood elite, his son said.

Michael Shaner added his father’s success stemmed from a vivacious personality, a gift of relationship building and genuine care for others. He fondly remembered times as a youth with his father, who “seemed to know everybody everywhere we went.”

“He was a lovely spirit, a genius at friendships and making friends,” Michael Shaner added. “From a busboy to famous actors and top producers, he knew everybody and treated them all with the same genuine concern about their lives.”

Shaner also taught screenwriting for UCLA for many years and hosted weekly writing workshops at his home for dozens of students. His son said teaching was a passion, and his father enjoyed helping others build and refine their stories. Shaner was never critical of an idea or content, but wasn’t shy about pointing out when a writer didn’t tell a story right or presented it in a way he didn’t think was interesting, Michael Shaner said.

“He was very generous with his time and talent. He helped countless people write and sell their work, and held workshops in their house on Orlando,” he added. “He taught writing right up until COVID hit.”

The Shaners lived on Orlando Avenue since the late 1960s, where they raised Michael and his younger brother Daniel. The home was a refuge, where John and Madeleine cultivated a lasting and loving marriage. Michael Shaner added that it was a gift to have had them as parents.

“They had a tremendous marriage. She was the love of his life,” Michael Shaner added. “He was loving and caring. He had a great zest for living. He was also a man’s man, and a writer’s writer.”

NFT Credits

Credit Type Production Season
PlaywrightAfter Crystal Night 1987-88 Season