Director Howard Hawks was not famous for giving much credit to screenwriters where it might otherwise reflect favorably upon himself. Consequently, Leigh Brackett receives cursory if complimentary mention in the Hawks oral reminiscences collected in Hawks on Hawks by Joseph McBride (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982), as well as the more critically oriented Focus on Howard Hawks edited by McBride (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1972).
There is an excellent career interview with Brackett in the now-defunct Take One magazine of January 1974 ("From The Big Sleep to The Long Goodbye and More or Less How We Got There") and an appreciation of her career at the time of her death in the same magazine (Take One, November 1978). Another wide-ranging interview, comparing Hawks' interpretation of Raymond Chandler with Robert Altman's, is contained within a broader discussion of the detective film in Jon Tuska's useful In Manors and Alleys: A Casebook on the American Detective Film (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1988).
Brackett wrote an interesting piece about Hawks and Hawksian women in Women in the Cinema, edited by Karyn Kay and Gerald Peary (New York: Dutton, 1977). And her adaptation of The Big Sleep is discussed in a perceptive article by Roger Shatzkin in The Modern American Novel and the Movies, edited by Gerald Peary and Roger Shatzkin (New York: Ungar, 1978). The annotated script of The Big Sleep is available in the University of Wisconsin Press screenplay series, with an introduction illuminating its creative development.
An informative essay about Brackett and her scripts appears in American Screenwriters, Volume 26 of Dictionary of Literary Biography, edited by Randall Clark, Robert E. Morsberger, and Stephen O. Lesser (Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1984). Essays about Arthur Laurents and Stewart Stern are also included in that volume.
In John Huston's autobiography, An Open Book (New York: Knopf, 1980), Huston's one-time screenwriting partner, Richard Brooks , earns brief, anecdotal recollection. But Brooks is an interview source in The Hustons by Lawrence Grobel (New York: Scribner's, 1989) and receives more expansive treatment there. (Ben Maddow is also interviewed by Grobel about his films for writer-director Huston.)
Brooks' collaboration with Huston on Key Largo is detailed in two unusual legal memos (to ward off possible litigation stemming from text comparisons with The Petrified Forest and To Have and Have Not ) quoted in Inside Warner Brothers (1935–1951), edited by Rudy Behlmer (New York: Viking Press, 1985).
Brooks' contract years at MGM in the 1950s are noted by then-studio head Dore Schary in his memoir, Heyday (Boston: Little, Brown, 1979). Schary, who also supervised Crossfire earlier at RKO, tells his version of the filming of The Blackboard Jungle, complaining good-naturedly that Brooks is "sometimes forgetful" about Schary' s role in the production. Good material and observations on Brooks generally, and with regard to Something of Value as well as The Blackboard Jungle specifically, are to be found in Sidney Poitier's autobiography, This Life (New York: Knopf, 1980).
Brooks' involvement in the saga of the Hollywood Ten and the showdown at the Directors Guild is touched on, dramatically, in Pictures Will Talk: The Life and Films of Joseph L. Mankiewicz by Kenneth L. Geist (New York: Scribner's, 1978).
Brooks' adaptations of Tennessee Williams' plays are covered in The Films of Tennessee Williams by Gene D. Phillips (Cranbury, N.J.: Art Alliance Press, 1980), and in A Look at Tennessee Williams by Mike Steen (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1969), a variety of transcribed interviews with film and theater notables on the subject of the playwright and his work.
Of the many interviews with Brooks that have been published in cinema journals, there is a searching one in Movie (Spring 1965) and a valuable update in American Film (October 1977). Two interviews have appeared in Cahiers du Cinéma (February 1959 and June 1965); and Positif, another French film journal, features an extensive interview with Brooks in its November 1975 issue.
Brooks is featured in American Screenwriters, Volume 44 of Dictionary of Literary Biography (second series), edited by Robert Morsberger, Stephen O. Lesser, and Randall Clark (Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1986). Also profiled in that volume are Betty Comden and Adolph Green, Ben Maddow (David Wolff), Daniel Mainwaring (Geoffrey Homes), Walter Reisch, Curt Siodmak, and Daniel Taradash.
Only fleetingly are Betty Comden and Adolph Green noted in director Vincente Minnelli's autobiography, I Remember It Well (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1974), and they fare no better in Minnelli's career interview in that seminal anthology of director interviews, The Celluloid Muse: Hollywood Directors Speak, by Charles Higham and Joel Greenbelt (New York: Signet, 1972).
In the Arthur Freed interview in People Will Talk by John Kobal (New York: Knopf, 1986) there is a congenial producer's perspective on the Comden-Green films. ("I liked working with them, very much," said Freed. "They didn't get hurt if you didn't like something, or wanted to do something a little different.") The Comden-Green films receive more individual treatment, albeit also largely from the point of view of producer Freed, in the comprehensive and enlightening The World of Entertainment! by Hugh Fordin (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1975).
The screenwriters' relationship with director Stanley Donen is discussed in the valuable Stanley Donen by John Andrew Casper (Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1983).
As globe-trotting dinner guests, Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon are seemingly ubiquitous in the memoirs of their contemporary theater, literary, and motion picture friends.
Of course, Kanin's own books, especially Hollywood (New York: Viking, 1974), are the best references on Kanin's own career. The early RKO films he directed (but did not write) are discussed at some length in an interview in Focus on Film (Spring 1974).
Director George Cukor always took care to praise the high calibre of the Kanin—Gordon scripts with which his career was blessed, notably with expansive comments in On Cukor by Gavin Lambert (New York: Capricorn Books, 1973) and The Celluloid Muse . The Kanin—Gordon collaboration with Cukor is also explored in an article in the Spring 1955 issue of Sight and Sound .
Kanin himself wrote an illuminating short essay about his wife, "Ruth Gordon: Late Bloomer," for Close-Ups: The Movie Star Book, edited by Danny Peary (New York: Galahad Books, 1978).
Though Dorothy Kingsley is noted in passing in many of the books about Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, there seems to be little, if any, serious consideration of her career in film histories and memoirs.
Tidbits about Arthur Laurents, particularly in regard to his early plays, are sprinkled throughout Irene Selznick's memoir, A Private View (New York: Knopf, 1983).
In Hitchcock by Francois Truffaut (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1984), director Alfred Hitchcock contends that Hume Cronyn did the final adaptation of Rope, and in American Screenwriters, Volume 26 of the Dictionary of Literary Biography, and in Ben Hecht: The Man Behind the Legend by William MacAdams (New York: Scribner's, 1990), Ben Hecht is also alleged to have toiled on the screenplay. In his interview in the present book, Laurents disputes these sources.
Laurents is provocative on the subject of the psychosexual pathology of director Hitchcock in The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock by Donald Spoto (Boston: Little, Brown, 1983).
There is no acknowledgment of Laurents' adaptation of Bonjour Tristesse in director Otto Preminger's slender volume of autobiography, Preminger (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1977). Nor are Laurents' contributions to Summertime noted in David Lean by Michael A. Anderegg (Boston: Twayne, 1984). In Stephen M. Silverman's David Lean (New York: H. N. Abrams, 1989), director Lean admits that Laurents "hated" the film. Katharine Hepburn is quoted as saying: "I knew David was going to throw out the whole script to the play, and instead of having a lot of details about this and that and the other thing that The Time of the Cuckoo was about, he would just concentrate on a sort of forty-year-old secretary going to Venice for the first time and being flirted with across the Piazza San Marco and reacting to it in the most enthusiastic way, and then leaving because it was totally impractical. And he was going to keep it just that."
Laurents' politics and blacklist experience are touched on in The Hollywood Writers Wars by Nancy Lynn Schwartz (New York: Knopf, 1982) and in Naming Names by Victor S. Navasky (New York: Viking, 1980).
One of the few screen personalities of his era willing to be quoted on the subject of homosexuality in Hollywood and in film stories, Laurents is liberally quoted in Vito Russo's pioneering tome on the subject, The Celluloid Closet:Homosexuality in the Movies (New York: Harper & Row, 1981).
For background details on Laurents' life and career, see his entry in Current Biography of November 1984.
Ben Maddow 's career as David Wolff, at the forefront of the 1930s documentary movement, is covered in William Alexander's Film on the Left: American Documentary Film from 1931 to 1942 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981) and in Russell Campbell's Cinema Strikes Back: Radical Filmmaking in the United States, 1930–1942, edited by Diane Kirkpatrick (Ann Arbor, Mich.: UMI Research Press, 1982). The Documentary Tradition by Lewis Jacobs (New York: Norton, 1979) discusses Maddow's later independent works, particularly The Steps of Age and The Savage Eye .
For cross-reference, there is a noteworthy interview with filmmaker Leo Hurwitz, co-founder of Frontier Films ("Native Land: An Interview with Leo Hurwitz"), in Cinéaste, no. 6, 1974.
In John Huston's autobiography, Maddow receives scant mention for his co-scripts of The Asphalt Jungle and The Unforgiven . Indeed, Huston claims that he "saw in Maddow's script [for The Unforgiven ] the potential for a more serious—and better—film than either he [Maddow] or [producers] Hecht-Hill-Lancaster had originally contemplated; I wanted to turn it into the story of racial intolerance in a frontier town, a comment on the real nature of community 'morality.' The trouble was that the producers disagreed."
Maddow's stint with Stanley Kramer, in the early 1950s, is confirmed, with some embroidery, in the narrative of Stanley Kramer: Film Maker by Donald Spoto (New York: Putnam, 1978).
Maddow's adaptation of Intruder in the Dust has been scrutinized by many critics and writers, notably in Faulkner's Intruder in the Dust: Novel into Film by Regina K. Fadiman (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1978) and in "Rites of Passage: Novel to Film," an essay by Pauline Degenfelder in The Modern American Novel and the Movies .
Navasky's Naming Names is an essential starting point for anyone interested in exploring the moral dilemma of the blacklist years and, specifically, in understanding Maddow's sad postscript as an eleventh-hour "cooperative."
Daniel Mainwaring (Geoffrey Homes) functioned in relative low-budget obscurity. But he worked often for two disparate directors who were appreciative of his gifts: the intellectual's cult director Joseph Losey and the thinking-man's action director Don Siegel. Losey expounds on Mainwaring's merits in On Losey by Michel Ciment (New York: Methuen, 1985), and Siegel pronounces Mainwaring his favorite scriptwriter in Don Siegel: Director by Stuart M. Kaminsky (New York: Curtis Books, 1974).
A stimulating article on Siegel/Mainwaring's The Phenix City Story ("This Will
Happen to Your Kids, Too" by Mark Bergman) is included in Kings of the Bs: Working Within the Hollywood System, edited by Todd McCarthy and Charles Flynn (New York: Dutton, 1975).
It seems that the French critics have been particularly alert to the nuances of Mainwaring. In his salad days as a critic, filmmaker Claude Chabrol wrote about film noir in Cahiers du Cinéma, trying to make sense of divergent works lumped together in the same genre. (His essay was reprinted in Cahiers du Cinéma: The 1950s: Neo-Realism, Hollywood, New Wave, edited by Jim Hillier [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985].) Chabrol could not quite explain why he liked Mainwaring's Out of the Past so much; he only knew that he did.
Aren't the best criteria of an authentic work most often its complete lack of self-consciousness and its unquestionable necessity? So there's nothing to restrict a preference for the freshness and intelligence of that almost impenetrable imbroglio, Out of the Past [UK title: Build My Gallows High ], directed by Jacques Tourneur and scripted clumsily, and utterly sincerely, by Geoffrey Homes, rather than for Dark Passage, with its skillful construction, its judicious use of the camera in its first half, and its amusing surreal ending. But what makes the first of the two films more sincere than the other, you mayask. The very fact of its clumsiness!
The Daniel Mainwaring interview in this book is but a fragment of a longer recording made on the occasion of Mainwaring's appearance as part of a gangster-film seminar at a midwestern college. Tom Flinn edited the original tape for publication in The Velvet Light Trap, but the remainder of the transcript, and the tape itself, alas, has been lost over the years.
Walter Reisch is warmly remembered in the many books about his principal U.S. directors—Ernst Lubitsch and George Cukor. He crops up, too, in some published interviews with Billy Wilder, with whom he co-wrote Ninotchka and with whom he worked, sub rosa, now and then Over the years.
Cukor professes his admiration for Reisch ("a marvelous, very inventive screen constructionist") in The Celluloid Muse and in On Cukor .
The best Lubitsch reference is The Lubitsch Touch by Herman G. Weinberg (New York: Dutton, 1971), in which there are many priceless anecdotes about Lubitsch. Included in The Lubitsch Touch is an interview with Reisch, excerpts from Ninotchka, and a wonderful postmortem essay, constructed from an interview with Reisch after Lubitsch's death. This last provides intimate details of Lubitsch's second heart attack, of the disposition of Lubitsch's estate, of the funeral (Reisch was a pallbearer), and of many curious facts surrounding Lubitsch's life and death. For example, his longtime secretary was buried next to the great director at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Greendale. ("She had saved all her life for this posthumous privilege, to sleep in death next to her boss," says Reisch. "It was only a short time after 1947 that her wish was fulfilled. ") The piece ends with Reisch's admission that he never called Lubitsch "Ernst," but always referred to him as "Herr Lubitsch."
Some background on Song of Scheherazade, the only Hollywood film Reisch directed, can be found in Yvonne: An Autobiography by Yvonne De Carlo with Doug Warren (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1987).
Though many of his ideas became classic movies, Curt Siodmak plays second fiddle to his brother, director Robert Siodmak, in most film encyclopedias and other sources.
Contradicting Siodmak's account in this volume, Luis Buñuel himself comments on his involvement in the cult horror film The Beast with Five Fingers in My Last Sigh: The Autobiography of Luis Buñuel (New York: Knopf, 1983). Buñuel claims he suggested one scene to director Robert Florey and star Peter Lorre, and that later, when he saw The Beast with Five Fingers in Mexico, he realized that "my scene in all its original purity" remained in the film. Buñuel says he considered suing, but ultimately dropped the issue. Buñuel's supposed contribution to the script of The Beast with Five Fingers is also cited in Luis Buñuel: A Critical Biography by Francisco Aranda (New York: Da Capo Press, 1976).
Certain of Siodmak's specific titles are intelligently appraised in Cult Movies by Danny Peary (New York: Dell, 1981) and in Twenty All-Time Great Science Fiction Films by Kenneth von Gunden and Stuart H. Stock (New York: Crown, 1982). There are general articles about Siodmak's career in Films and Filming (November 1968) and in L'Ecran Fantastique (April 1983).
A worthwhile interview with Siodmak appears in an anthology of interviews with top scriptwriters, Screenwriter: Words Become Pictures, by Lee Server (Pittstown, N.J.: Main Street Press, 1987).
Stewart Stern is one of the sources for anecdotes and perspective in the biography of Montgomery Clift, Monty, by Robert LaGuardia (New York: Arbor House, 1977).
Stern is captured intelligently in Hollywood Speaks! An Oral History by Mike Steen (New York: Putnam, 1974), in a long interview that was updated in a question-and-answer session transcribed for the October 1983 issue of American Film .
Daniel Taradash 's debut as a scriptwriter on Golden Boy is discussed, complimentarily, in Rouben Mamoulian by Tom Milne (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1969) and in King Cohn by Bob Thomas (New York: Putnam, 1968).
Director Fritz Lang was always very effusive about Taradash, and he talks about him in The Celluloid Muse as well as in Fritz Lang in America by Peter Bogdanovich (London: Studio Vista, 1967), where Lang describes him as "a man I admire very much." However, the adaptor of Picnic is relatively neglected in writer-director Josh Logan's two volumes of show business memoirs, Josh: My Up and Down, In and Out Life (New York: Delacorte Press, 1976) and Movie Stars, Real People, and Me (New York: Delacorte Press, 1978).
Significant background on Taradash's only directorial effort, the social-consciousness film Storm Center, is offered in Bette Davis: Mother Goddam by Whitney Stine with Bette Davis (New York: Hawthorn Books, 1974). Taradash is a source for some provocative material in Brando by Charles Higham (New York: New American Library, 1987) and in Golden Boy: The Untold Story of William Holden by Bob Thomas (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1983).
An article about Taradash's work as an adaptor appears in the May 1959 issue of Films and Filming .
That man of mystery, Philipa Yordan, has escaped notice in most film histories, and the entries on him in many sources and references are understandably a mass of confusion.
Yordan's version of events apropos House of Strangers is contradicted, vehemently, by writer-director Joseph L. Mankiewicz in Pictures Will Talk: The Life and Films of Joseph L. Mankiewicz by Kenneth L. Geist. Robert Wyler is given his due as the co-scriptwriter of some of his brother William Wyler's films (including Detective Story ) in the authorized biography William Wyler by Axel Madsen (New York: Crowell, 1973). And in an interview in the October 1987 issue of Fangoria, director Camilo Vila, co-writer of the grisly horror film The Unholy, clarifies aspects of that eleventh-hour credit of Yordan's long career.
Yordan's approach to the Western genre is examined in The American West in Film: Critical Approaches to the Western by Jon Tuska (Westport, Conn., and London: Greenwood Press, 1985).
The only other significant Yordan interview extant is with Bertrand Tavernier in Cahiers du Cinéma (February 1962).