Bertram Millhauser

Active - 1917 - 1960  |   Born - Jan 1, 1892   |   Died - Dec 3, 1958   |   Genres - Mystery, Drama, Crime, Adventure, Comedy

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Bertram Millhauser was one of Hollywood's most prolific and successful screenwriters, with credits extending across several decades and genres, but he stood out as a writer of mysteries and thrillers, especially those involving Sherlock Holmes. Millhauser entered the movie business as a stenographer in the advertising department at Pathe during the 1910s. He moved up to the script department, where he was responsible for many of the early serials featuring Pearl White. Millhauser later became a writer and producer for Cecil B. DeMille. In 1932, he wrote the screenplay to Sherlock Holmes, one of the better early-'30s adaptations of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle character, produced at Fox with William K. Howard directing and Clive Brook in the title role. The following year, one of his plays, The Life of Jimmy Dolan, was adapted by Warner Bros. into a hit film with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. as a boxer on the run from a trumped-up murder charge (it was later remade as They Made Me a Criminal, starring John Garfield and Claude Rains). As a writer/producer in the 1930s, Millhauser helped produce Three Faces East and The Country Doctor, the latter a dramatization on the story of the Dionne quintuplets that was so successful for its star, Jean Hersholt, that it resulted in the creation of the Dr. Christian movie series for Hersholt, who was transformed from character actor into a movie star as a result. He also authored the screenplay for The Garden Murder Case, an entry in the Philo Vance film series. At Universal in the 1940s, Millhauser was responsible for the most successful and richly textured of the direct adaptations of the Sherlock Holmes stories in the film series starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. Among these, The Pearl of Death and Sherlock Holmes Faces Death stand out among his Universal scripts, even though the latter contains relatively little of its supposed source, The Musgrave Ritual within its structure, apart from the essential mystery. Where Millhauser excelled, however, was in adapting Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's characters to the screen within stories of his own. The Scarlet Claw, co-authored by Millhauser and producer/director Roy William Neill, is easily the best of the originals in the Universal series, a rich and atmospheric work that plays more faithful to Doyle in spirit and content than some of the direct adaptations. Millhauser's later screen credits were less interesting, although one of his final works, the screenplay to Richard Wilson's Pay or Die (produced two years after Millhauser's death), does stand out as a violent, surprisingly honest dramatization of the early 20th century New York Police Department's battle against the Mafia.

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