Frances Goodrich

Active - 1931 - 1991  |   Born - Dec 21, 1890   |   Died - Jan 29, 1984   |   Genres - Comedy, Drama, Romance, Musical, Crime

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Completing her education at Vassar, American screenwriter Frances Goodrich began her career as an actress, first appearing on Broadway in 1916. Her stage career was slightly more successful than her marital experiences; by 1929 she had been divorced twice, first from actor Robert Ames, then from historian Henrik Willem Van Loon (the author of The Story of Mankind). Thus she was not predisposed to romantic entanglements when, in the late 1920s, she met fellow actor Albert Hackett; moreover, he was to her a "fresh kid" (he was nine years her junior). As it happened, both Goodrich and Hackett shared a mutual goal: to leave acting behind in favor of playwrighting. The two were married while collaborating on their first Broadway hit, Up Pops the Devil (1929).

Their success on Broadway eventually led to the pair being signed as a writing team by MGM, where they launched the popular Thin Man series, allegedly basing the characterizations of Nick and Nora Charles on their good friends Dashiel Hammett (who wrote the novel upon which Thin Man was based) and Lillian Hellman. While there would be another Broadway production on the Goodrich/Hackett docket in the 1940s, The Great Big Doorstep, for the most part the couple devoted their time to screenwriting. They were particularly skilled at adapting the works of others to meet the restrictions and requirements of the movies; among their most famous film credits were adaptations of Owen Wister's The Virginian (1946), S. N. Behman's The Pirate (1948), Edward Streeter's Father of the Bride (1950), and the musical version of Stephen Vincent Benet's Sobbin' Women, released as Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954). Goodrich and Hackett were also among the many writers who toiled on Frank Capra's It's A Wonderful Life (1946); when apprised that Capra was passing off their scriptwork as his own "inspiration," Goodrich characterized the director as "that dreadful man!", a position which she held even after Wonderful Life was acknowledged as a screen classic. One of the Goodrich/Hackett projects at MGM was to have been an film version of The Diary of Anne Frank; when the studio nixed the project as too downbeat, the couple labored for two years on their own adaptation, which ultimately opened on Broadway in 1954 and won a Pulitzer Prize. Goodrich and Hackett retired to their lavish New York apartment after completing work on their last film, an adaptation of Peter Shaffer's play Five Finger Exercise (1962).

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