Before becoming a screenwriter and director, Ben Maddow graduated from Columbia University; he then got involved with the American documentary movement during the 1930s. In 1936, Maddow co-created The World Today, a series of liberally oriented newsreels designed to challenge the highly conservative news reel series, The March of Time. Maddow and company's series did not last long. In 1942, he helped write the script for the documentary Native Land under the pseudonym David Wolff. During the late 1940s, he began writing screenplays alone or in collaboration with others; occasionally he did so without screen credit. Maddow also infrequently directed independent films and documentaries.