Preston Sturges was an American playwright, screenwriter, and film director. In 1941, he won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for the film The Great McGinty and it is not uncommon for a Sturges character to deliver an exquisitely turned phrase and take an elaborate pratfall within the same scene. A tender love scene between Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck in The Lady Eve was enlivened by a horse, which repeatedly poked its nose into Fondas head. Sturges famously sold the story for The Great McGinty to Paramount Pictures for $1, in return for being allowed to direct the film, Sturges was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Mary Estelle Dempsey and travelling salesman Edmund C. His maternal grandparents, Catherine Campbell Smyth and Dominick dEste Dempsey, were immigrants from Ireland, when Sturges was three years old, his eccentric mother left America to pursue a singing career in Paris, where she annulled her marriage with Prestons father. Returning to America, Dempsey met her husband, the wealthy stockbroker Solomon Sturges. According to biographers, Solomon Sturges was diametrically opposite to Mary and this included her close friendship with Isadora Duncan, as the young Sturges would sometimes travel from country to country with Duncans dance company. Mary also carried on an affair with Aleister Crowley and collaborated with him on his magnum opus Magick. As a young man, Sturges bounced back and forth between Europe and the United States, as Sturges spent much of his childhood and youth in France, he ended up fluent in French and a Francophile who always considered France his second home. In 1916, he worked as a runner for New York stock brokers, the next year, he enlisted in the United States Army Air Service, and graduated as a lieutenant from Camp Dick in Texas without seeing action. While at camp, Sturges wrote an essay, Three Hundred Words of Humor, returning from camp, Sturges picked up a managing position at the Desti Emporium in New York, a store owned by his mothers fourth husband. He spent eight years there, until he married the first of his four wives, in 1928, Sturges performed on Broadway in Hotbed, a short-lived play by Paul Osborn, and Sturges first produced play, The Guinea Pig, opened in Massachusetts. The play was a success and Sturges moved it to Broadway the following year and that same year also saw the opening of Sturges second play, the hit Strictly Dishonorable. Written in just six days, the play ran for sixteen months and earned Sturges over $300,000 and it attracted interest from Hollywood, and Sturges was writing for Paramount by the end of the year. Three other Sturges stage plays were produced from 1930 to 1932, one of them a musical, by the end of the year, he was working more in Hollywood as a writer-for-hire, operating on short contracts, for Universal, MGM, and Columbia studios. He also sold his screenplay for The Power and the Glory to Fox. The film told the story of a self-involved financier via a series of flashbacks and flashforwards, Sturges later recalled, The film made a lot of enemies. Writers at that time worked in teams, like piano movers, and my first solo script was considered a distinct menace to the profession
Herman J. Mankiewicz
Herman Jacob Mankiewicz was an American screenwriter, who, with Orson Welles, wrote the screenplay for Citizen Kane. Earlier, he was the Berlin correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, alexander Woollcott said that Herman Mankiewicz was the funniest man in New York. Both Mankiewicz and Welles received Academy Awards for their screenplay and he was often asked to fix the screenplays of other writers, with much of his work uncredited. Occasional flashes of what came to be called the Mankiewicz humor and satire distinguished his films, the style of writing included a slick, satirical, and witty humor, which depended almost totally on dialogue to carry the film. It was a style that would become associated with the typical American film of that period. Among the screenplays he wrote or worked on, besides Citizen Kane, were The Wizard of Oz, Man of the World, Dinner at Eight, Pride of the Yankees, and The Pride of St. Louis. Mankiewiczs younger brother was Joseph L. Mankiewicz, also an Oscar-winning Hollywood director, screenwriter, film critic Pauline Kael credits Mankiewicz with having written, alone or with others, about forty of the films I remember best from the twenties and thirties. He was a key linking figure in just the kind of movies my friends, Herman Mankiewicz was born in New York City in 1897. His parents were of German Jewish ancestry, his father, Franz Mankiewicz, was born in Berlin and he arrived in the U. S. with his wife, a dressmaker named Johanna Blumenau, who was from the German-speaking Kurland region. The family lived first in New York and then moved to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, in 1909, Hermans brother, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, was born, and both boys and a sister spent their childhood there. The family moved to New York City in 1913, and Herman graduated from Columbia University in 1917. After a period as managing editor of the American Jewish Chronicle, he became a cadet with the United States Army in 1917, and, in 1918. In 1919 and 1920, he director of the American Red Cross News Service in Paris. He took his bride overseas with him on his job as a foreign correspondent in Berlin from 1920 to 1922. He was a bookish, introspective child who, despite his intelligence, was never able to win approval from his father who was known to belittle his achievements. He became an alcoholic, which hurt his career by the late 1930s and his children were screenwriter Don Mankiewicz, politician Frank Mankiewicz, and novelist Johanna Mankiewicz Davis. While a reporter in Berlin for the Chicago Tribune, he also sent pieces on drama, at one point, he was hired in Berlin by dancer Isadora Duncan, to be her publicist in preparation for her return tour in America. At home again in the U. S. he took a job as a reporter for the New York World and he was known as a gifted, prodigious writer, and contributed to Vanity Fair, The Saturday Evening Post and numerous other magazines
George Orson Welles was an American actor, director, writer, and producer who worked in theatre, radio, and film. In 1937 he and John Houseman founded the Mercury Theatre, an independent repertory company that presented a series of productions on Broadway through 1941. It reportedly caused widespread panic when listeners thought that an invasion by extraterrestrial beings was actually occurring, although some contemporary sources claim these reports of panic were mostly false and overstated, they rocketed Welles to notoriety. His first film was Citizen Kane, which he co-wrote, produced, directed, Welles was an outsider to the studio system and directed only 13 full-length films in his career. He has been praised as the ultimate auteur, Welles followed up Citizen Kane with critically acclaimed films including The Magnificent Ambersons in 1942 and Touch of Evil in 1958. Although these three are his most acclaimed films, critics have argued other works of his, such as The Lady from Shanghai and Chimes at Midnight, are underappreciated. Known for his voice, Welles was an actor in radio and film, a Shakespearean stage actor. George Orson Welles was born May 6,1915, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, son of Richard Head Welles and he was named after his paternal great-grandfather, influential Kenosha attorney Orson S. Head, and his brother George Head. Despite his familys affluence, Welles encountered hardship in childhood and his parents separated and moved to Chicago in 1919. His father, who made a fortune as the inventor of a bicycle lamp, became an alcoholic. Beatrice died of hepatitis in a Chicago hospital May 10,1924, the Gordon String Quartet, which had made its first appearance at her home in 1921, played at Beatrices funeral. After his mothers death Welles ceased pursuing music and it was decided that he would spend the summer with the Watson family at a private art colony in Wyoming, New York, established by Lydia Avery Coonley Ward. There he played and became friends with the children of the Aga Khan, Welles briefly attended public school before his alcoholic father left business altogether and took him along on his travels to Jamaica and the Far East. When they returned they settled in a hotel in Grand Detour, Illinois, when the hotel burned down, Welles and his father took to the road again. During the three years that Orson lived with his father, some observers wondered who took care of whom, in some ways, he was never really a young boy, you know, said Roger Hill, who became Welless teacher and lifelong friend. Welles briefly attended school in Madison, Wisconsin, enrolled in the fourth grade. At Todd School, Welles came under the influence of Roger Hill, Hill provided Welles with an ad hoc educational environment that proved invaluable to his creative experience, allowing Welles to concentrate on subjects that interested him. Welles performed and staged theatrical experiments and productions there, Todd provided Welles with many valuable experiences, wrote critic Richard France
Ring Lardner Jr.
Ringgold Wilmer Ring Lardner Jr. was an American journalist and screenwriter blacklisted by the Hollywood movie studios during the Red Scare of the late 1940s and 1950s. Born in Chicago, he was the son of Ellis and journalist and humorist Ring Lardner, and he was educated at Phillips Academy, Andover, and Princeton University, where he joined the Socialist Club. In his sophomore year he enrolled at the Anglo-American Institute of the University of Moscow, Lardner returned to New York and, in 1935, briefly worked at the Daily Mirror before signing on as publicity director with David O. Selznick’s new movie company. Lardner joined the US Communist Party in 1937, Ring Lardner Jr. moved to Hollywood where he worked as a publicist and script doctor before writing his own material. This included Woman of the Year, a film won him an Academy Award for Writing Original Screenplay in 1942. He also worked on the scripts for the films Laura, Brotherhood of Man, Forever Amber, the script of the latter earned him an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Lardner held strong left-wing views and during the Spanish Civil War he helped raise funds for the Republican cause and he was also involved in organizing anti-fascist demonstrations. His brother, James Lardner, was a member of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, after the Second World War the House Un-American Activities Committee began an investigation into the Hollywood motion picture industry. In September 1947, the HUAC interviewed 41 people who were working in Hollywood and these people attended voluntarily and became known as friendly witnesses. During their interviews they named several people whom they accused of holding left-wing views, known as the Hollywood Ten, they claimed that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution clearly gave them the right to do this. The HUAC and the courts during appeals disagreed and all were guilty of contempt of Congress. Lardner was sentenced to 12 months in Danbury Prison and fined $1,000 and he had been dismissed by Fox on October 28,1947. Blacklisted by the Hollywood studios, Lardner worked for the couple of years on the novel The Ecstasy of Owen Muir. He moved to England for a time where he wrote under pseudonyms for television series such as The Adventures of Robin Hood. The blacklist was lifted when producer Martin Ransohoff and director Norman Jewison gave him credit for writing 1965s The Cincinnati Kid. Lardners later work included M*A*S*H, for which he won the Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay and his final film project was an adaptation of Roger Kahns book The Boys of Summer. According to Hungarian writer Miklós Vámos—who visited Lardner several times before his death—Lardner won an Academy Award for a movie he wrote under a pseudonym. Lardner refused to tell which movie it was, saying that it would be unfair to reveal it because the writer who allowed him to use his name as a front was doing him a big favor at the time
Muriel Box was an Oscar-winning English screenwriter and director. She was born Violette Muriel Baker in Tolworth, Surrey, England in 1905, when her attempts at acting and dancing proved to be unsuccessful, she accepted work as a continuity girl for British International Pictures. In 1935, she met and married journalist Sydney Box, with whom she collaborated on nearly forty plays with mainly female roles for theatre groups. Their production company, Verity Films, first released short films, including The English Inn, her first directing effort. The couple achieved their greatest joint success with The Seventh Veil for which gained the Academy Award for Best Writing. She occasionally assisted as a director, or re-shot scenes during post-production. Her extensive work on The Lost People gained her a credit as co-director, in 1951, her husband created London Independent Producers, allowing Box more opportunities to direct. Many of her films were adaptations of plays, and as such had a stage-bound feel. They were noteworthy more for their strong performances than they were for a distinctive directorial style, Box often experienced prejudice in a male-dominated industry, especially hurtful when perpetrated by another female. In 1950, Jean Simmons had her replaced on So Long at the Fair and she left film-making to write novels and created a successful publishing house, Femina, which proved to be a rewarding outlet for her feminism. She divorced Sydney Box in 1969, the following year, she married Gerald Gardiner, who had been Lord Chancellor. She died in Hendon, London in 1991