It’s Pride Month and we are celebrating it here at the Garden! This year, the June edition of SCREENPLAY BY is dedicated to one of the many LGBTQ+ storytellers from Hollywood’s Golden Age, horror master DeWitt Bodeen.
Born in Fresno, California in 1908, DeWitt Bodeen started his career as an actor and playwright, achieving relative success with his plays Escape to Autumn and Embers at Haworth. He began working as a reader in Hollywood and, when one of his plays caught the attention of producer Val Lewton, he was hired as a researcher and then script writer at RKO. His first credited screenplay was Cat People (1942, dir. Jacques Tourneur), which I covered here, the first of a string of horror pictures during Lewton’s run as producer. Then came the screenplays for The Seventh Victim (1943, dir. Mark Robson) and The Curse of the Cat People (1944, dir. Gunther von Fritsch and Robert Wise), followed by The Enchanted Cottage (1945, dir. John Cromwell), marking his departure from the horror genre. His adaptation of John Van Druten’s play I Remember Mama (1948, dir. George Stevens) was his last big film success of the decade before moving onto television, where he spent most of the 1950s, before returning to film in the 60s and earning a BAFTA nomination for Best British Screenplay for Billy Budd (1962. dir. Peter Ustinov). Sometime in between that, he met actor Val Dufour. Though definitive sources are hard to find, it is believed that the two were a couple during this period and, if so, it is probably safe to assume that theirs was one of the many LGBTQ+ love stories from Old Hollywood that had to be kept under wraps. Looking back, it is perhaps no coincidence that Bodeen’s most iconic work is eerily metaphorical. Maybe, like Cat People’s Irena, DeWitt Bodeen lived in the shadows.
He died in 1988 at the age of 79.