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American screenwriter, director, producer, playwright, journalist, and novelist. A journalist in his youth, he went on to write thirty-five books and some of the most entertaining screenplays and plays in America. He received screen credits, alone or in collaboration, for the stories or screenplays of some seventy films. In the 1910s and early 1920s, Hecht became a noted journalist, foreign correspondent, and literary figure. Many of the screenplays he worked on are now considered classics. Hollywood screenwriter”, someone who “personified Hollywood itself”.
According to his autobiography, he never spent more than eight weeks on a script. His father, Joseph Hecht, worked in the garment industry. The Hechts married in 1892. When Hecht was in his early teens, he would spend the summers with an uncle in Chicago. On the road much of the time, his father did not have much effect on Hecht’s childhood, and his mother was busy managing the store outlet in downtown Racine. Film author Scott Siegal wrote, “He was considered a child prodigy at age ten, seemingly on his way to a career as a concert violinist, but two years later was performing as a circus acrobat. 1910, at age sixteen Hecht moved to Chicago, running away to live there permanently.
He lived with relatives, and started a career in journalism. He was an excellent reporter who worked on several Chicago papers. It was a sensational debut for Hecht as a serious writer. Ben Harvey”, was based on Hecht’s life during his early years working as a reporter in Chicago. The film was nominated for three Oscars.
While it lasted, the column was enormously influential. He was going to be its interpreter. His was to be the lens throwing city life into new colors, his the microscope revealing its contortions in life and death. Hecht went on to produce novels, plays, screenplays, and memoirs, but none of these eclipsed his early success in finding the stuff of literature in city life. Recalling that period, Hecht wrote, “I haunted streets, whorehouses, police stations, courtrooms, theater stages, jails, saloons, slums, madhouses, fires, murders, riots, banquet halls, and bookshops.
I ran everywhere in the city like a fly buzzing in the works of a clock, tasted more than any fit belly could hold, learned not to sleep, and buried myself in a tick-tock of whirling hours that still echo in me. These works enhanced his reputation in the literary scene as a reporter, columnist, short story writer, and novelist. Hecht showed an uncanny ability to picture the strange jumble of events in strokes as vivid and touching as the brushmarks of a novelist. Ben Hecht was the enfant terrible of American letters in the first half of the twentieth century”, wrote author Sanford Sternlicht. He adds, “Even though he never attended college, Hecht became a successful novelist, playwright, journalist, and screenwriter. His manners are not always nice, but then nice manners do not always make interesting autobiographies, and this autobiography has the merit of being intensely interesting If he is occasionally slick, he is also independent, forthright, and original. Among the pussycats who write of social issues today, he roars like an old-fashioned lion.
Monroe was “persuaded to capitalize on her newfound celebrity by beginning an autobiography. Churchwell adds that the truths in her story were highly selective. Hecht reported to his editor during the interviews that he was sometimes sure Marilyn was fabricating. He explained, ‘When I say lying, I mean she isn’t telling the truth. I don’t think so much that she is trying to deceive me as that she is a fantasizer. Beginning with a series of one-acts in 1914, he began writing plays. It was widely acclaimed and had a successful run on Broadway of 281 performances, beginning August 1928.