SCREENPLAY BY: Ring Lardner Jr.

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I swear I’m not deliberately going for blacklisted screenwriters for  SCREENPLAY BY every time, but the fact that they keep popping up says a lot about Hollywood’s bleakest period. Here is the most notorious of the Hollywood Ten, Ring Lardner Jr.

The son of famed humorist Ring Lardner, he was born in Chicago in 1915. He studied at Princeton and at the Anglo-American Institute of the Uiversity of Moscow before returning to New York in the mid-1930s, where he worked at the Daily Mirror for a while before moving to Hollywood. He signed with David O. Selznick and worked as a script doctor and publicist and, in 1942, he wrote the screenplay for Woman of the Year (dir. George Stevens) with Michael Kanin, for which he got the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. He went on to write the scripts for Laura (1944) and Forever Amber (1947) for Otto Preminger before the you-know-what hit the fan. Lardner’s left-wing views, which he allegedly acquired during the Spanish Civil War, led to him being questioned by the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947. He refused to answer their questions, along with nine other creatives, making him one of the Hollywood Ten (this is too extensive to cover here but please do look it up). He was sentenced to twelve months in prison and fined for ‘contempt of Congress’. After this, he could only find work under a pseudonym and, along with Ian McLellan Hunter, also blacklisted and under a pseudonym, wrote such TV shows as The Adventures of Robin Hood and The Buccaneers. In 1965, he was hired to write the screenplay for The Cincinatti Kid (dir. Norman Jewison) and in 1970, he wrote M*A*S*H* (dir. Robert Altman), for which he won his second Oscar, for Best Adapted Screenplay. One of his last screenwriting credits was the Muhammad Ali film The Greatest (1977, dir. Tom Gries). The last surviving member of the Hollywood Ten, Ring Lardner Jr died in 2000 at the age of 85. His memoir ‘I’d Hate Myself in the Morning’, named after part of his response in the blacklist enquiry, was published shortly after.

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