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Screenwriting History #29 William Faulkner (1897 – 1962)

William Faulkner (1897 – 1962) was an American writer and Nobel Prize laureate. In fact he was one of the most important American writers from the 1920s to the 1950s -- he was awarded the 1949 Nobel prize in literature. He was also a screenwriter. By the 1930s he was in financial troubles and though he loathed movies, he accepted an offer by MGM to come out to Hollywood. (Faulkner was a part of a fairly large migration of struggling writers who left the East for the vulgarity of Hollywood.) Faulkner worked and formed a friendship with director Howard Hawks; the two were known for drinking and hunting together. Faulkner was only credited for just six motion pictures, five of which were with Hawks.

His first credited screenplay was TODAY WE LIVE (1933) based on a short story of his "Turn about." Next he and Hawks collaborated on THE ROAD TO GLORY. He would also pen the SLAVE SHIP (1937) and TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT (1944), based on Ernest Hemingway's novel, and perhaps his best work THE BIG SLEEP (1946).

Reportedly, the alcoholic Southern novelist-turned screenwriter character W. P. Mayhew in the movie  BARTON FINK (1991) is based loosely on Faulkner.

Faulkner died of a heart attack on July 6, 1962, in Byhalia, Mississippi.


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