Written By Summer 2012 : Page 2

letterS tHe MAGAzine OF tHe WriterS GuilD OF AMeriCA, WeSt W rittenB y THE MAGAZINE OF THE WRITERS GUILD OF AMERICA, WEST When one has been around the block as many times as I have, there are few prerogatives left. Among the few that remain is the right of grumpiness, and here I exercise it. In the Editor’s short essay, Rich-ard Stayton collapses history rather the when he describes the Hunger dramatically change from SWG to WGA as a re-artist naming. There is a long and painful struggle within that change, which was actually an amalgamation of the Television Writers Guild and the Screen Writers Guild, possibly one of the world’s few successful demonstrations of cold fusion. There is a value in remembering how we got here. Another example of the same sad shorthand can be seen, in the same issue, in Mayo Simon’s adventure-filled article, “From LA to NY.” He refers to the artistic rights every playwright enjoys, saying “...all those artistic rights that screenwriters and television writers have spent their lives fighting for and still don’t have.” In the service of a gesture toward institutional memory, it is true that we don’t have those rights now, but those of us who began in television be-fore the amalgamation did have them. The 1956 television drama Mayo and I wrote together, we still own. The ownership of all sub-sequent creations was given up at the moment the television writers joined the screenwriters and accepted the residual formula. The last television play of mine that wholly belongs to me was written and performed in 1967. Win some, lose some. | Loring Mandel www.wr i t t e n b y .c o m © APRIL/MAY 20 12 Grumpy Old Writers W ritten B y © © Stage & Screen nicholas Kazan Steven Paul Leiva theresa rebeck Mark roberts Mayo Simon WGAW OFFiCerS President Chris Keyser Vice President Howard A. Rodman Secretary-treasurer Carl Gottlieb WGAW BOArD OF DireCtOrS Alfredo Barrios Jr., John Brancato, Linda Burstyn, Ian Deitchman, Carleton Eastlake, Katherine Fugate, David A. Goodman, David S. Goyer, Mark Gunn, Kathy Kiernan, Aaron Mendelsohn, Billy Ray, Thania St. John, Robin Schiff, David Shore, Dan Wilcox exeCutiVe DireCtOr David Young GenerAl COunSel Tony Segall Gary ross wins the Games WGAW PHOne inFOrMAtiOn The Guild (All Departments) 323.951.4000 FAx 323.782.4800 WeBSite: WWW.WGA.OrG WGAW DePArtMentS Administration Agency Awards & elections Claims Contracts Credits Dues Diversity executive Offices Film Society Finance Human resources legal library Member Services Membership Organizing Public Affairs Publications registration residuals Signatories theater Operations Written By Pension & Health 323.951.4000 782.4520 782.4502 782.4569 782.4663 782.4501 782.4528 782.4531 782.4589 951.4000 782.4508 782.4637 782.4615 782.4521 782.4544 782.4747 782.4532 782.4511 782.4574 782.4699 782.4500 782.4700 782.4514 782.4525 782.4699 818.846.1015 800.227.7863 800.890-0288 Loring is quite right. In the 1950s those of us who were writing live TV dramas in New York owned our work. We gave up owner-ship for residuals (and afterward health insurance and retirement benefits). I’m sorry I forgot and glad he remembered. But then, he’s younger than I am. | Mayo Simon Doomed to repeat it RE: April/May Issue— Richard Stayton, Editor FADE IN SCREEN. PLAY. Column The penultimate paragraph is wrong. Ben Hecht did not adapt The Front Page to the screen as His Girl Friday. Charles Lederer did. Fade Out | Andrew J. Fenady Editor’s Note: In 1939, Ben Hecht collaborated with director Howard Hawks on adapting his and Charles MacArthur’s 1928 classic play, The Front Page, into the Cary Grant/Rosalind Rus-sell movie His Girl Friday . Hawks explained its development to Peter Bogdanovich during an interview for his book The Cinema of Howards Hawks (1962): continues on page 6 WritersCare info. Written By welcomes your comments. Send letters to: 7000 W. Third St., L.A., CA 90048 Or E-mail us at writtenby@wga.org 2 • WG A W Written By SUMMER 20 12

Letters

Loring Mandel

Grumpy Old Writers

When one has been around the block as many times as I have, there are few prerogatives left. Among the few that remain is the right of grumpiness, and here I exercise it.

In the Editor’s short essay, Richard Stayton collapses history rather dramatically when he describes the change from SWG to WGA as a renaming.There is a long and painful struggle within that change, which was actually an amalgamation of the Television Writers Guild and the Screen Writers Guild, possibly one of the world’s few successful demonstrations of cold fusion.There is a value in remembering how we got here.

Another example of the same sad shorthand can be seen, in the same issue, in Mayo Simon’s adventure-filled article, “From LA to NY.” He refers to the artistic rights every playwright enjoys, saying “...all those artistic rights that screenwriters and television writers have spent their lives fighting for and still don’t have.” In the service of a gesture toward institutional memory, it is true that we don’t have those rights now, but those of us who began in television before the amalgamation did have them. The 1956 television drama Mayo and I wrote together, we still own. The ownership of all subsequent creations was given up at the moment the television writers joined the screenwriters and accepted the residual formula. The last television play of mine that wholly belongs to me was written and performed in 1967. Win some, lose some. |

Loring Mandel Loring is quite right. In the 1950s those of us who were writing live TV dramas in New York owned our work. We gave up ownership for residuals (and afterward health insurance and retirement benefits). I’m sorry I forgot and glad he remembered. But then, he’s younger than I am. | Mayo Simon

Doomed to repeat it

RE: April/May Issue—Richard Stayton, EditorFADE IN SCREEN. PLAY. Column

The penultimate paragraph is wrong.

Ben Hecht did not adapt The Front Page to the screen as His Girl Friday. Charles Lederer did.

Fade Out | Andrew J. Fenady

Editor’s Note: In 1939, Ben Hecht collaborated with director Howard Hawks on adapting his and Charles MacArthur’s 1928 classic play, The Front Page, into the Cary Grant/Rosalind Russell movie His Girl Friday. Hawks explained its development to Peter Bogdanovich during an interview for his book The Cinema of Howards Hawks (1962):

“I was going to prove to somebody one night that The Front Page had the finest modern dialogue that had been written, and I asked a girl to read Hildy’s part and I read the editor and I stopped and I said, ‘Hell, it’s better between a girl and a man than between two men,’ and I called Ben Hecht and I said, ‘What would you think of changing it so that Hildy is a girl?’ And he said, ‘I think it’s a great idea,’ and he came out and we did it.”

Todd McCarthy’s biography Howard Hawks: The Grey Fox of Hollywood informs us that “… Hecht briefly accompanied [Charles] Lederer to Palm Springs to help him revise the Front Page plotline.” Hecht rarely spoke of his Hollywood career with anything loftier than contempt. Screen credits meant little to the playwright. (Indeed, he rescued the unwieldy shooting script of Gone With the Wind from the mixed labors of numerous revisers, including F. Scott Fitzgerald’s draft.

Hecht delivered a camera-ready script after five days’ work with director Victor Fleming and producer David O. Selznick but under the condition that his name remain off the credits. Selznick and he decided that the first adapter, Sidney Howard, who had recently died in a farm accident, should receive sole credit, in part to avoid insulting Howard’s grieving widow, which might then provoke negative press attention.)

For His Girl Friday, Hecht encouraged Hawks to have the writing credit belong to his close friend and sometimes collaborator Charles Lederer. Evidently, one purpose of this subterfuge was to disguise the film’s source.

The December 31, 1939 Variety review opened with,“No doubt aiming to dodge the stigma of having His Girl Friday termed a remake, Columbia blithely skips a pertinent point in the credits by merely stating, ‘From a play by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur.’ It’s inescapable, however, that this is the former legit and pic smash The Front Page.The trappings are different—even to the extent of making reporter Hildy Johnson a femme—but it is still Front Page.”

When Hecht initially arrived in Hollywood in 1925, he met a kindred cynic in Charles Lederer, whose sardonic insights into the business matched his own mordant perspective.The orphaned Lederer had been raised by his mother’s sister, Marion Davies, spending much of his youth at William Randolph Hearst’s San Simeon castle where his aunt lived as the newspaper publisher’s mistress. (Lederer married the ex-wife of Orson Welles in 1940, only to become close friends with the maverick director. He is rumored as the source of the Citizen Kane “rosebud” motif, gossiping to Welles that Hearst adoringly named Davies’ genitalia after the flower.) Throughout their parallel careers, when necessary Hecht assisted his friend with uncredited work on Lederer’s scripts, including Howard Hawks’ sci-fihorror classic The Thing.

Hecht’s 1963 autobiography, Gaily, Gaily, was dedicated, “For Charles Lederer, to read in his tub.”

Many hilarious memories of Lederer are in The Ben Hecht Show: Impolitic Observations from the Freest Thinker of 1950s Television, compiled by Bret Primack, available in the Writers Guild Foundation Library. Reading it, you’ll find much Hechtiana, such as: “I used to rail against Hollywood because 4/5ths of the work I did for Hollywood would have been better had I not signed it.”

Read the full article at http://www.bluetoad.com/article/Letters/1077882/113611/article.html.

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