Allen Adler

Genres - Science Fiction, Horror

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Allen Adler was a writer with two major screen works to his credit, both in the science fiction field: he was the co-author (with Irving Block) of the story on which the sci-fi genre classic Forbidden Planet (1956) was based, and he wrote the story for Eugène Lourié's The Giant Behemoth (1959). Born Allen Alexander Adler in 1916, he was the son of Abram (Abe) Adler, a theatrical manager who was, in turn, the son of Jacob Adler and his first wife, Sonya Oberlander (who died giving birth to Abram in London in 1886). Jacob -- a major star of the Yiddish theater, first in Europe and then in America -- subsequently remarried, and Abram was later the half-brother to renowned actor Luther Adler, his equally famous actress/teacher sister Stella Adler, and actor Jay Adler. (Actor Charles Adler, who appeared in a few movies of the 1930s, was also an illegitimate half-brother to Abram, born in the same year, 1886). While Abram, who also worked professionally as Adolph Adler, never had the prominence on the performing or creative side of the theater world of his younger siblings, he did make his way in the field as an employee of the Shuberts across the early/middle 20th century. Allen Adler, born in New York City, studied writing at New York University in the 1930s, and was one of the earliest students in the university's film program. He might have pursued a career as an actor, but for a birth defect that left him with a speech impediment, which put a performing career out of reach. Instead, he set his sights on writing for the screen.

Adler served as a bombardier with the Army Air Force in the Pacific during the Second World War. After returning to civilian life, he became a talent agent for a time, representing Ethel Waters and Harry Belafonte, among others. He also mounted a touring production of Hecht and MacArthur's The Front Page in the late '40s. Finally, in the early '50s, he signed a three-movie deal as a writer with Columbia Pictures. And then the Red Scare intervened: his name came up as an alleged communist during one round of hearings in the early '50s, and the Columbia contract was canceled soon after. In 1955, however, he was able to sell the story, titled "Fatal Planet," that became Forbidden Planet; the latter movie remains, 50 years after its release, a towering achievement within the field of science fiction screenwriting and production. Four years later, The Giant Behemoth came to the screen, based on Adler's story (ironically, it had to be shot in England, but according to his daughter Allison Jo Adler, in a 2010 conversation, the original story had the title creature appearing in the Hudson River and New York). Adler was also the author of one science fiction novel, Mach 1: A Story of Planet Ionus (aka, Terror on Planet Ionus), published in 1957; the latter, partly inspired by his experiences in the U.S. Army Air Force, may have started life as a screenplay before Adler turned it into a novel. Sadly, Adler never had an opportunity to build on his limited screen credits with the passing of the Red Scare after the 1950s. He passed away in New York in 1964 from botched treatment of a longterm ailment.