Ben Hecht

From Academic Kids

Ben Hecht (February 28, 1894April 18, 1964) was one of the most prolific of all Hollywood screenwriters, even though he professed hatred and disdain for the motion picture industry.


Life and Hollywood

Hecht was raised in Racine, Wisconsin, and as a young man moved to Chicago, where he became a reporter and, eventually, a short-story writer and novelist. He eventually landed in New York, where he met movie mogul David O. Selznick. The two were to be lifelong friends and frequent collaborators.

Hecht eventually moved to Hollywood, where he scripted Josef von Sternberg's gangster story Underworld in 1927, and won an Oscar for his work at the first Academy Awards presentation. His most famous work was the stage comedy The Front Page, which he wrote with frequent collaborator Charles MacArthur. It was first translated to film in 1931 and three more times, most notably as Howard Hawks' His Girl Friday in 1940. Much of Hecht's later work was uncredited, as he worked as a "script doctor".

Hecht had an early talk show that was shown on television in the New York metropolitan area in the 1950s and 1960s.

Ben Hecht's Academy Award nominations

Ben Hecht's writing filmography

Books (partial list)

A Child of the Century A Guide for the Bedevilled Gaily, Gaily The Front Page 1001 Afternoons in New York Perfidy Erik Dorn

Jewish and Holocaust activism

Ben Hecht was a great supporter of Zeev Jabotinsky and the right-wing Revisionist Zionism movement of Menachem Begin. He subsequently wrote and published the book Perfidy (New York: Julian Messner, 1961; L.C. No. 61-13853, ISBN: 0-99646886-3-8) dramatizing the failure to rescue Hungary's Jews during the Holocaust, and the roles of the Zionist leader Rudolf Kastner and others in high leadership positions in that affair, which was the subject of a famous libel trial when Kastner sued Grunwald, who had accused him of complicity with the Nazis. In that trial, although the court initially held that these accusations were correct, on appeal it was unanimously held that they were largely untrue or unfair and the verdict was reversed. The case remains highly controversial (see for example here (; here (; here (; and here ( ) and it is not universally accepted that Hecht's account can be accepted as fair.

Hecht also opposed the social-democratic policies of Israel's first two prime ministers David Ben-Gurion, Moshe Sharett, and of the Jewish Agency for what he regarded as their complicit silence and co-operation with the British during World War II in not doing more to rescue Jews and open the doors of Palestine to Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany and occupied Europe. He spoke out against the lack of interest in saving the Jews trapped in Europe during the Holocaust. He purchased newspaper advertising in New York's newspapers to publicize the fate of Hitler's victims. In one such "advertisement" with the headline: "FOR SALE: 70,000 JEWS AT $50 APIECE GUARANTEED HUMAN BEINGS" explaining that three and a half million dollars would rescue the then trapped Romanian Jews (quoted in his work Perfidy, pp. 191-192).


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