He's got a book out about his screenplays and he's called innovate. More power to him. I thought about that in contrast to a writer from Old Hollywood, the Hollywood of the studio days and power. Those were the days when writers got more work and more chances to work, it seems. They also were blessed in being able to be original and not have to write screenplays based on computer games or comic book heroes. They could also write screenplays that seemed inspired by comic books. They could exercise more writing muscles in a profession that, I'm sure, has never been easy.
I saw a movie recently and found myself saying "He wrote that too?!?" The writer is Ben Hecht. What ever vitamins he was taking, I wish I could get some. Charlie Kaufman would probably say the same thing. I mentioned the three Kaufman screenplays discussed on the radio show. Hecht wrote the screenplays to 1939's Wuthering Heights directed by William Wyler, starring Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon.
Alicia's the one who has to memorize names, get information and bang a middle-aged Nazi who has a she-wolf mother. This is a thriller, a love story (Cary Grant's the hero who falls for her) and a bold statement on how women are treated like second class citizens while being asked to be first class patriots.
There you have it -- three strong screenplay from Charlie Kaufman, three strong screenplays from Ben Hecht. But, wait! There's more! Hecht also wrote the following screenplays: The Front Page (1931 and later remade as the gender bender comedy, His Girl Friday), Scarface (1931 and later remade with Al Pacino in the lead role), Design for Living (1933), Nothing Sacred (1937, one of the best Carole Lombard screwball comedies), Gunga Din (1939) and Hitchcock's Spellbound (1945). He did not get screen credit but made contributions to the scripts of Gone With The Wind, Stagecoach, The Shop Around the Corner, Gilda, Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent, Rope, Strangers on a Train and Lifeboat, Kiss of Death starring Victor Mature and Richard Widmark and the 1962 Mutiny on the Bounty remake starring Marlon Brando. Those are just some of his credits.
Not all his scripts were hits. He wrote the Bob Hope and Katharine Hepburn comedy, The Iron Petticoat. She's a Russian Soviet pilot (with her The Philadelphia Story accent) and kicks Communism and military attire to the curb-ski when she falls for an American soldier played by Hope. If this movie was any more of a dog, it would bark.
What was the movie that made me say, "He wrote that too"? It also had feminist images and it looked like it could've been inspired by comic books. Now available on DVD, a movie I had not seen in years since it delighted me on local TV several times when I was a youngster, Hungarian Zsa Zsa Gabor stars as the Queen of Outer Space.
Queen of Outer Space followed by Charlie Kaufman's Being John Malkovich ... now that's a fun double feature.
Ben Hecht ...wow. What an amazing body of work.