One of only six screenwriters to feature on one of my t-shirts (Big Sleep poster, woop!), Jules Furthman remains one of the most underrated screenwriters of his generation.
Born in Chicago, Illinois in 1888, he started his writing career as a magazine and newspaper writer under the name Stephen Fox. Throughout the 1910s and 20s, he wrote a ridiculous amount of screenplays, adaptations and scenarios, including The Way of All Flesh (1927, dir. Victor Fleming) and The Docks of New York (1928), the latter marking the beginning of his collaboration with director Josef von Sternberg. A writer-director duo that is often overlooked, they worked on such films as Morocco (1930), Blonde Venus (1932) and Shanghai Express (1932), among others. In 1935, he received his only Oscar nomination for Mutiny on the Bounty (1935, dir. Frank Lloyd), losing to Dudley Nichols, whom we covered here. In the late 30s and throughout the 40s, he often wrote for Howard Hawks, including Only Angels Have Wings (1939), To Have and Have Not (1944), The Big Sleep (1946) and Rio Bravo (1959), his last screenplay. Hawks supposedly said of him, ‘If there are five ways to play a scene, Furthman will find a sixth.’ Jules Furthman passed away from a brain hemorrhage in Oxford, England in 1966 at the age of 78.