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Screenwriting History #26: Millard Kaufman

Millard Kaufman may have been the oldest Hollywood writer to get an assignment a decade ago at the age 86, but the project fell through. Kaufman lived from 1917 to 2009 and was known in Hollywood as a “writer's writer;” he was also called a workman’s writer. Which is fair, but misses the mark for the man was as complete a writer as there was.  MGM’s Dore Schary wrote in his memoir Heyday that Kaufman had “a combination of toughness and hard intellectuality.” Kaufman was the go to guy for years at MGM and was considered a "master script doctor."

Kaufman enlisted in the military joining the Marines during World War II participating in the battle for Guadalcanal and the landings at Guam and Okinawa and was awarded a Bronze Star for bravery under fire. During McCarthyism he allowed his name to be used for blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo on the 1950 film-noir crime classic GUN CRAZY. He later insisted his name be removed and returned to Trumbo. “Any time I had speaking engagements where they included that film in my credits, I always set the record straight anyway,” he said.  Kaufman was the co-created of the cartoon character MISTER MAGOO (1960).

At the age of 86 he wrote his first novel, A Bowl of Cherries, which was published in October 2007. Kaufman married a gal named Lorraine and during 66 years of matrimony raised 3 kids: Frederick, Mary, and Amy Bur. After graduating at John Hopkins University, Kaufman like so many early screenwriters did his time newspaper copy editor and writer with the New York Daily News, and then Newsday.

He was twice nominated for a screenwriting Oscar for TAKE THE HIGH GROUND and BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK. You can read Kaufman’s script for Black Rock here.


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