Ben Hecht, 1893 - 1964

portrait of Ben Hecht
Publicity still (1949)

Born: 28 February 1894, New York City
Died: 18 April 1964, New York City

Hecht's parents were Jewish immigrants from Belarus, he grew up and attended school at Racine, Wisconsin, spending summers with an uncle at Chicago. At age ten he was considered a child prodigy of the violin, two years later he was performing as an acrobat in the circus. After graduation from high school (1910) he moved to Chicago and became a journalist with the Chicago Journal and then the Chicago Daily News. He covered the gritty side of Chicago, the characters he met, and more importantly their manner of speech, became important in his later work. At the end of the first World War he was assigned to Berlin where he also wrote his first novel. He spent part of each year, never more than twelve weeks, at Hollywood working on scripts, he was the first winner of an Academy Award for best screenplay in 1927, and wrote at least seventy during his career with six Oscar nominations and two wins. When the writer hired to create the screen play for Gone with the Wind turned in a script that would have taken six hours to film and refused to come to Hollywood for revisions, Hecht got the nod. The result was another Oscar-winning screen play but because the original writer had died in the interim, David O. Selznick decided to let the original writer have the credit. When Hecht became active in the Zionist cause his work was banned in Great Britain for several years, during this time his name did not appear in credits so the films could be shown there. He didn't seem to mind, he appeared to see Hollywood only as an easy source of income to support his other writing. He was the ghostwriter of My Story, the autobiography of Marilyn Monroe, and was identified as the author in the reprint in 2000. Some of his most famous scripts were The Front Page (1931), Scarface (1932), Gunga Din (1939), Notorious (1946), and Monkey Business (1952). His own autobiography, A Child of the Century, was published in 1954. Hecht died of a heart attack while working on the script for Casino Royale.

Biography from Wikipedia and Authors' Calendar

Ben Hecht quotes:

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