While his output as a screenwriter was hardly prolific (due in part to his struggle with manic depression), Norman Wexler contributed to a handful of films that provided strong roles for leading men and have come to be considered by some critics as "modern classics" from the 1970s. The New England native, who marked time working in advertising in the 1950s and 60s while writing plays, struck pay dirt with his first produced effort, "Joe" (1970), a dark look at bigotry and violence that showcased the talents of Peter Boyle in the title role. While some found the plot a bit contrived (a button-downed type commits a murder and confesses it to a stranger with whom he forms an unlikely friendship), others were impressed with its spleen-venting attack on small-mindedness. Wexler earned an Oscar nod for his script and his Hollywood career took off in earnest. He shared writing duties on "Serpico" (1973) with Waldo Salt and the pair were rewarded with an Academy Award nomination for their superb adaptation of Peter Maas' nonfiction look at an undercover cop exposing corruption within the ranks of the NYPD. Finely realized by Sidney Lumet, the film also provided actor Al Pacino with a tour de force role, one of the best in his career.