Famous for his novel-turned-screenplay White Hunter Black Heart. He is also known for his screenwriting contributions to Alfred Hitchcock's Saboteur and John Huston's The African Queen and We Were Strangers.
One year before graduating from Dartmouth College, he published his debut novel, The Canyon. During the World War II years, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and subsequently worked for the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS).
Viertel's physique and demeanor inspired Robert Redford's portrayal of Hubbell Gardiner in the hit 1973 film The Way We Were.
One of three sons born to Austrian-Jewish writers Berthold and Salka Viertel. He had a daughter named Christine with his first wife, actress Virginia Ray (a.k.a. Jigee Viertel). His second marriage to actress Deborah Kerr lasted from 1960 until Kerr's death in October of 2007.
He adapted two of Ernest Hemingway's novels, The Sun Also Rises and The Old Man and the Sea, into 1950s films of the same titles.