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Screenwriting History #27: Ben Hecht

Ben Hecht was one of the most highly paid and accomplished screenwriters of his era, and perhaps the most prolific in Hollywood history -- the  IMDB lists over 140 films to his credit.  He won the first Academy Award  for best original story for UNDERWORLD  in 1929. Though a New York writer who proclaimed to hate movies, Hecht made as much as $1000 a day to write as early as 1931 and appeared to love the money. He was lured, infamously in a telegram,  in 1926 to Hollywood by fellow discontent Herman J. Mankiewicz:

"Will you accept 300 per week to work for Paramount? All expenses paid. 300 is peanuts. Millions are to be grabbed out here and your only competition is idiots. Don't let this get around..."

Ben Hecht was raised in Racine, Wisconsin, and as a young man moved to Chicago, where he became a reporter and, eventually, a short-story writer and novelist. He traveled in literary circles that eventually landed him in New York, where he met young movie mogul David O. Selznick; the two were to be lifelong friends and frequent collaborators.  Alone or in collaboration (often with Charles MacArthur), Hecht quickly turned out the witty, well-plotted scripts for some of Hollywood's most acclaimed films of the 1930s and 40s in every genre from screwball comedies to crime thrillers. His prolific (and highly-paid) output includes the cynical comedy classic NOTHING SACRED (1937), the superb adaptation of Emily Bronte's  WITHERING HEIGHTS (1939), and Hitchcock's NOTORIOUS (1946), which has at its center one of filmdom's most compelling villains. (Source)

Parital Filmography:

Kiss of Death (1995)
Switching Channels (1988)
Front Page, The (1974)
Gaily, Gaily (1969)
Casino Royale (1967)
Circus World (1964)
7 Faces of Dr. Lao (1964)
Cleopatra (1963)
Billy Rose's Jumbo (1962)
Mutiny on the Bounty (1962)
Walk on the Wild Side (1962)
North to Alaska (1960)
John Paul Jones (1959)
Gun Runners, The (1958)
Queen of Outer Space (1958)
Farewell to Arms, A (1957)
Legend of the Lost (1957)
Iron Petticoat, The (1956)
Wild Heart, The (1952)
Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950)
Perfect Strangers (1950)
Love Happy (1950)
Inspector General, The (1949)
Whirlpool (1949)
Roseanna McCoy (1949)
Big Jack (1949)
Portrait of Jennie (1948)
Cry of the City (1948)
Rope (1948)
Miracle of the Bells, The (1948)
Fiend Who Walked the West, The (1958)
Kiss of Death (1947)
Paradine Case, The (1947)
Her Husband's Affairs (1947)
Ride the Pink Horse (1947)
Kiss of Death (1947)
Dishonored Lady (1947)
Duel in the Sun (1946)
Notorious (1946)
Specter of the Rose (1946)
Gilda (1946)
Cornered (1945)
Spellbound (1945)
Watchtower Over Tomorrow (1945)
Lifeboat (1944)
Outlaw, The (1943)
Black Swan, The (1942)
China Girl (1942)
Journey Into Fear (1942)
Tales of Manhattan (1942)
Ten Gentlemen from West Point (1942)
Roxie Hart (1942)
Mad Doctor, The (1941)
Comrade X (1940)
Second Chorus (1940)
Angels Over Broadway (1940)
Foreign Correspondent (1940)
I Take This Woman (1940)
Shop Around the Corner, The (1940)
His Girl Friday (1940)
Gone with the Wind (1939)
At the Circus (1939)
Lady of the Tropics (1939)
It's a Wonderful World (1939)
Some Like It Hot (1939)
Wuthering Heights (1939)
Let Freedom Ring (1939)
Stagecoach (1939)
Gunga Din (1939)
Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)
Goldwyn Follies, The (1938)
Nothing Sacred (1937)
Hurricane, The (1937)
Prisoner of Zenda, The (1937)
Woman Chases Man (1937)
King of Gamblers (1937)
Star Is Born, A (1937)
Soak the Rich (1936)
Barbary Coast (1935)
Spring Tonic (1935)
Once in a Blue Moon (1935)
Scoundrel, The (1935)
Florentine Dagger, The (1935)
President Vanishes, The (1934)
Crime Without Passion (1934)
Shoot the Works (1934)
Twentieth Century (1934)
Upperworld (1934)
Viva Villa! (1934)
Riptide (1934)
Queen Christina (1933)
Design for Living (1933)
Turn Back the Clock (1933)
Topaze (1933)
Hallelujah, I'm a Bum (1933)
Rasputin and the Empress (1932)
Back Street (1932)
Million Dollar Legs (1932)
Scarface (1932)
Beast of the City, The (1932)
Unholy Garden, The (1931)
Sin of Madelon Claudet, The (1931)
Monkey Business (1931)
Homicide Squad (1931)
Quick Millions (1931)
Front Page, The (1931)
Spectre vert, Le (1930)
Roadhouse Nights (1930)
Street of Chance (1930)
Unholy Night, The (1929)
Great Gabbo, The (1929)
Big Noise, The (1928)
American Beauty (1927)
Underworld (1927)
New Klondike, The (1926)



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