Monday, November 28, 2005

Hollywood's Writer

In the early 1950s, the French magazine of film criticism Cahier du Cinema developed the Politique des Auteurs concept of film analysis. This posited that one collaborator in the film process was usually the effective "author" of the released product. This was a legitimate and insightful observation of the movies. In the Politique terms, the author might well be the writer, the producer or the star, but was most often the director.

Some American film critics, most notably Andrew Sarris, expanded on the directorial quotient to ridiculous extremes. Emboldened by this newly elevated critical status, the Directors Guild of America negotiated a contract awarding them the "A Film By" credit ahead of the Title. All Hollywood directors received this credit despite the fact that they were generally hired on the project many months, and even years after the writers and producers had crafted and developed and the material and the financing and it was ready to go.

Lost in this undue adulation of directors is the brilliant work of some truly great collaborative talents; producers like Darryl F. Zanuck and Hal Wallis, check their credits on IMDB, and maybe the greatest hollywood writer of them all, Ben Hecht.

Hecht comes to mind today because looking into the TV Times I see a Hecht double feature on TCM this afternoon, RIDE THE PINK HORSE and GUNGA DIN. Set your Tivos.

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