Ring Lardner Jr.

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Ring Lardner Jr.

Ring Lardner, Jr. (August 19, 1915-October 31, 2000), was an American journalist and screenwriter who was blacklisted by the Hollywood movie studio bosses during the era of McCarthyism.

Born in Chicago, Illinois, he was the son of the famous journalist and humorist, Ring Lardner. After being educated at Princeton University he became a reporter on the New York Daily Mirror.

Lardner moved to Hollywood where he worked as a publicist and "script doctor" before writing his own material. This included Woman of the Year, a film that won him an Academy Award for Writing Original Screenplay in 1942. Other notable scripts include Laura (1944), Brotherhood of Man (1946) and Forever Amber (1947).

Lardner held strong left-wing views and during the Spanish Civil War he helped raise funds for the Republican cause. He was also involved in organizing anti-fascist demonstrations. Although his political involvement upset the owners of the film studios, he continued to be given work and in 1947 became one of the highest paid scriptwriters in Hollywood when he signed a contract with Fox at $2,000 a week.

After the Second World War the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) began an investigation into the Hollywood motion picture industry. In September, 1947, the HUAC interviewed 41 people who were working in Hollywood. These people attended voluntarily and became known as "friendly witnesses". During their interviews they named several people who they accused of holding left-wing views.

Lardner appeared before the HUAC on October 30, 1947, but like Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Albert Maltz, Adrian Scott, Dalton Trumbo, Lester Cole, Edward Dmytryk, Samuel Ornitz and John Howard Lawson, he refused to answer any questions. Known as the "Hollywood Ten", they claimed that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution clearly gave them the right to do this. The HUAC and the courts during appeals disagreed and all were found guilty of contempt of Congress. Lardner was sentenced to 12 months in Danbury Prison and fined $1,000. He had been sacked by Fox on October 28, 1947.

Blacklisted by the Hollywood studios, Lardner worked for the next couple of years on the novel, The Ecstasy of Owen Muir (1954). He moved to England for a time where he wrote under several pseudonyms before the blacklist was lifted when producer Martin Ransohoff and director Norman Jewison give him screen credit for writing 1965's The Cincinnati Kid. Lardner's follow-up work included M*A*S*H (1970), for which he won the Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay, and The Greatest (1977).

Ring Lardner, Jr. died in Manhattan, New York in 2000.


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