L. M. Kit Carson, an actor and writer who earned a following among devotees of independent film with his magazine journalism about movies and his own quirky films, died on Oct. 20 in Dallas, while visiting. He was 73.
The precise cause was uncertain, but Mr. Carson had been ill with pneumonia, said his wife, Cynthia Hargrave.
Within the independent film world, Mr. Carson was well known. As a writer for Esquire, Rolling Stone and other magazines in the 1960s and ’70s, he was an early advocate of young American directors like Martin Scorsese and Brian De Palma. In 1971 he was a founder, with G. William Smith, a film professor at Southern Methodist University, of the USA Film Festival, based in Dallas, which became an annual showcase for American films.
He was later a regular participant in the writers’ labs at the Sundance Film Festival and a script doctor and general advice-giver for young filmmakers. He is widely credited with propelling the careers of the director Wes Anderson and the actors Luke and Owen Wilson by helping them develop their 1996 feature film, “Bottle Rocket.”
“He was a good guru,” Mr. Anderson and Owen Wilson wrote in a brief online tribute to Mr. Carson after his death.
In 1967 Mr. Carson appeared in “David Holzman’s Diary,” a deadpan sendup of the emerging documentary technique known as cinéma vérité that has become a darling of American film-history connoisseurs and is sometimes called the progenitor of the faux-reality genre known as mockumentary. Directed by Jim McBride, who later directed “The Big Easy” and “Great Balls of Fire!,” it depicts the title character (Mr. Carson) as a hapless, self-scrutinizing young man who sets out to film his own unenviable life.
In this “totally delightful satire,” Nora Sayre wrote in The New York Times in 1973, Mr. Carson “distills the eager naïveté that accompanied the zest for technology, deliberate inarticulation and the mistrust of words, the vibes and the hoaxes and all the lighter put-ons of 1967.”
As a screenwriter, Mr. Carson’s best-known film was “Paris, Texas” (1984), a skewed romantic tale directed by Wim Wenders about a fragmented American family starring Harry Dean Stanton as a man who returns from amnesiac oblivion and encounters his brother, his young son and his estranged wife. The film won reverent reviews — “a defiantly individual film, about loss, loneliness and eccentricity,” Roger Ebert wrote — and the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, though the provenance of the script was a bit hazy.
The playwright Sam Shepard is given screen credit as the writer. Mr. Carson’s credit is for “adaptation,” and he is generally thought to have reworked and completed an unfinished Shepard draft. Ms. Hargrave said in an interview on Tuesday that her husband wrote the second half of the film, with the exception of a pair of monologues by Mr. Shepard. The Cannes festival gave credit to both of them, as well as Mr. Wenders, for the screenplay.
Lewis Minor Carson was born in Dallas on Aug. 12, 1941. His father, Minor Lee Carson, was a cowboy who became an accountant after he hurt his back. Young Lewis went to Jesuit High School in Dallas, where an English teacher inspired him to become a writer. A natural wanderer, he accumulated credits or simply attended classes at a number of colleges — including Harvard, Bard, the University of Colorado, Holy Cross and New York University — before he earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Dallas, where he also taught for a year.
Mr. Carson’s first marriage, to the actress Karen Black, ended in divorce. Their son, Hunter, an actor who as a child played Harry Dean Stanton’s son in “Paris, Texas,” survives him. In addition to Ms. Hargrave, a film producer whom he married in 1988 and worked with often, Mr. Carson is survived by two brothers, Neke and David, and three grandchildren. He lived in Los Angeles and New York.
Mr. Carson was co-director, with Lawrence Schiller, of “The American Dreamer,” a 1971 documentary about Dennis Hopper, who was best known at the time as a co-star and the director of “Easy Rider.” His other screenplays included those for Mr. McBride’s 1983 remake of Jean-Luc Godard’s 1960 noir romance, “Breathless,” starring Richard Gere, and a comedy-horror sequel, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.”
More recently, Mr. Carson shot a series of brief documentaries in Africa with his cellphone that were broadcast on the Sundance Channel in 2011. His wife said that he had intended to make more films featuring Africans telling their own stories.
“Kit rarely did anything for the money of it,” Ms. Hargrave said. “He did things for the ‘aha!’ of it. And nobody could ever convince him he was wrong.”