Ben Hecht (1894 -1964) was one of Hollywood’s and Broadway’s greatest writers. He won Best Original Screenplay at the very first Academy Awards in 1929 (for Underworld) and he is responsible for the writing of many classic films, often uncredited. He was nominated for five more Oscars, winning (with writing partner Charles MacArthur) for The Scoundrel (1935); Viva Villa! (1934), Wuthering Heights (1939); Angeles Over Broadway (1940) and Notorious (1946).
Hecht wrote fast and wrote well, completing a screenplay in two to eight weeks (he wrote Scarface in 11 days). He was a highly paid script doctor. He received $10,000 from producer David O. Selznick for a fast rewrite of the Gone With The Wind (1939), receiving no credit and for which Sidney Howard won an Oscar, beating out Hecht’s Wuthering Heights (1939) screenplay. A prolific writer: 65 films, 25 books, 20 plays, 250 short stories and at least 300 magazine articles.
Ten Essential Hecht:
Kiss Of Death (1947)
The Front Page (1931,1945, 1974)
His Girl Friday (1940)
A Star Is Born (1937)
Twentieth Century (1934)
Monkey Business (1952)
A Farewell To Arms (1957)
Angels Over Broadway (1940)
At a party in Hollywood one night in the 1950s, he got drunk and began pitching a story about astronauts who crash on a planet populated entirely by horny women who capture the astronauts and plan to use them to repopulate their planet. A year later he heard about a just completed low-budget sci-fi flick with that same plot line. He got hold of a script for Queen Of Outer Space (1958), and it was the exact same story he spun at that party. Hecht sued the production company and received as settlement: “story” credit on the film.