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H Entries
Earl Hamner, Jr.
Tom Hanks
Jonathan Harris
George Harrison
Ray Harryhausen
Byron Haskin
Howard Hawks
Ben Hecht
David Hedison
Robert A. Heinlein
Charlton Heston
Sir Alfred Hitchcock
Inoshiro Honda
Ron Howard
Rock Hudson
Gale Anne Hurd
Martha Hyer
 
HECHT, BEN
(1894–1964). American writer.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Wrote: "Miracle in the Rain" (1950), episode of Westinghouse Studio One; Miracle in the Rain (Rudolph Mate 1954).

Co-wrote: Wuthering Heights (with Charles MacArthur) (William Wyler 1939); Spellbound (with Angus McPhail) (Alfred HITCHCOCK 1945); Her Husband's Affairs (with Charles Lederer) (S. Sylvan Simon 1947); The Miracle of the Bells (with Quentin Reynolds) (Irving PICHEL 1948); Monkey Business (with Lederer and I. A. L. Diamond) (Howard HAWKS 1952); Ulysses (with Franco Brusati, Mario Camerini, Ennio De Concini, Hugh Gray, Ivo Perilli, and Irwin Shaw) (Camerini 1955); Queen of Outer Space (original story; script Charles BEAUMONT) (Edward BERNDS 1958); Casino Royale (with Wolf Mankowitz, John Law, Michael Sayers, Billy Wilder, John Huston, Val GUEST, Joseph Heller, and Terry Southern) (Huston, Ken Hughes, Guest, Robert Parrish, and Joseph McGrath 1966).

Co-wrote, uncredited: The Mad Doctor (with Howard S. Green, credited, and MacArthur, uncredited) (Tim Whelan 1941); The Big Noise (with Scott Darling, credited) (Malcolm St. Clair 1944); The Thing (with Lederer credited, and Hawks, uncredited) (Hawks 1951); Hans Christian Andersen (with Myles Connolly, credited story, and Moss Hart, credited script) (Charles Vidor 1952); The Circus of Dr. Lao (with Beaumont credited) (George PAL 1964).

Wrote, produced, and directed, all with MacArthur: The Scoundrel (1935).

Wrote and directed; The Specter of the Rose (1946).

Film based on his work: Unholy Night (Lionel Barrymore 1929); The Great Baggo (James Cruze 1929); Notorious (tv movie) (Colin Bucksey 1992).

 
As the delightful story goes, Ben Hecht once was attending a Hollywood party in the late 1950s and holding forth on what was probably his favorite subject, the decline and fall of the movie industry he had worked in for thirty years. "Nowadays," he declared, "this is the kind of story that producers want," and proceeded to amuse his listeners by making up a ludicrous yarn about a spaceship full of male astronauts who are forced to land on a planet inhabited exclusively by a race of beautiful women. A producer overheard the story and, duly impressed, offered to pay Hecht for the rights. So it was that Hecht came to be credited with the original story for the film Queen of Outer Space, a sophomoric exercise that was light years away from the wit and sophistication that were otherwise his trademarks.

If the story is true—and it is hard to imagine any other circumstances that might have led him to create a film like Queen of Outer Space—one naturally envisions the raconteur Hecht holding a stiff drink in one hand and a lighted cigar in the other, looking much like the veteran reporters featured in his most famous work, the oft-filmed stage play The Front Page, co-authored with Charles MacArthur. Examining his credits, we know that Hecht was a trusted Hollywood insider, frequently brought in to secretly polish scripts for major productions in potential jeopardy such as Rasputin and the Empress (1932), Queen Christina (1933), The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), Stagecoach (1939), Gone with the Wind (1939), The Outlaw (1943), Duel in the Sun (1946), Roman Holiday (1953), Guys and Dolls (1955), Trapeze (1956), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1956), North to Alaska (1960), Mutiny on the Bounty (1962), and Cleopatra (1963)—providing more than enough behind-the-scenes experience to turn any writer into a cynic. Surely Hecht was always a welcome addition to any Hollywood party, with many hilarious anecdotes to provide about his public and private adventures in screenwriting: how he was paid to write jokes for the Marx Brothers's Monkey Business (1931), At the Circus (1939), and Love Happy (1950); how he added some punch to the dialogue of The Thing, which he might have sarcastically dubbed "the attack of the giant carrot"; how he worked with Alfred HITCHCOCK to improve Foreign Correspondent (1940), Rope (1948), and Strangers on a Train (1951); how he contrived to get himself involved in the international all-star messes of Ulysses and Casino Royale, only to watch his contributions vanish in seas of incoherent babble. Like other talented writers drawn into the Hollywood milieu, his sense of artistic satisfaction undoubtedly shriveled as his income soared, leading to a proportional increase in the amount of alcohol he consumed, but he kept working hard until the day he died, always willing to play script doctor one more time for an old friend.

Although Hollywood money generally kept Hecht away from science fiction and fantasy, this was not entirely unfamiliar territory, since he had first made a reputation in the 1920s writing urbane ghost stories and religious fantasies before he was drawn to writing first for the stage, then for the screen. One sub-genre that suited his skills was the screwball comedy built around an amazing new invention: in Her Husband's Affairs, a hair-removing treatment that instead grows hair, and in Monkey Business (1952), a rejuvenation serum. Understandably, the former—starring Lucille Ball and Franchot Tone and directed by an unknown—was less successful than the latter, starring Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers, and Marilyn Monroe and directed by Howard HAWKS.

An especially memorable sequence in Monkey Business—where the nerdish Grant, transformed by the serum, begins acting like a teenager and goes on a wild drive with Monroe—suggests that Hecht himself may, at times, have longed to be liberated from his own cosmopolitan image, as is also indicated by his other relevant specialty, the full-frontal sentimental fantasy. While Hecht might have attributed the mawkish ineptitude of The Miracle of the Bells, Hans Christian Andersen, and The Circus of Dr. Lao to the source material that he was hired to work on, no such excuse is possible for Miracle in the Rain , based on his own novella and adapted by Hecht (unusually, without a collaborator) for both television and film versions. Clearly, this maudlin melodrama about a dead soldier's ghostly return to his sweetheart was close to Hecht's heart, and it remains the sort of film that can move audiences almost in spite of themselves. So, like the seasoned wisecrackers of The Front Page who are momentarily shamed into silence by the condemned man's girlfriend, Ben Hecht did have a soft, sentimental side, though he rarely revealed it in scripts or at Hollywood parties.

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