James Gunn

Active - 1943 - 2017  |   Genres - Drama, Comedy

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Biography by Bruce Eder

Screenwriter and author James Edward Gunn -- not to be confused with his slightly younger contemporary James Edwin Gunn, who specializes in science fiction -- was noted for much of his career for his hard-boiled crime fiction. Born in San Francisco in 1920, he wrote his first novel, Deadlier Than the Male, in 1942 as part of an assignment for a class he was taking. He made his screenwriting debut soon after with the screenplay to William Wellman's Lady of Burlesque (1943), starring Barbara Stanwyck and based on the Gypsy Rose Lee mystery novel The G-String Murders. His next movie credit was a screen adaptation of Deadlier Than the Male under the title Born to Kill (1947), starring Lawrence Tierney. Gunn's work began showing up regularly in screen adaptations, not always in screenplays of his, from the late '40s onward, and not just on crime-related stories. His output included naval and military dramas, as well as character studies and, later still, delinquency stories. But it was his work in crime subjects that stood out, including the stories of The Unfaithful and Affair in Trinidad, the former resulting in a shared screen credit with David Goodis.

Gunn also contributed stories and screenplays to numerous television anthology shows of the 1950s, as well as series such as State Trooper and Mike Hammer, and westerns such as Wagon Train and Sugarfoot, and the detective shows 77 Sunset Strip and Checkmate. He also co-created one period adventure series, Mountain Man, that got as far as a pilot that didn't sell. His last major project involved a brace of screenplays for episodes of the short-lived mid-'60s dramatic series The Long, Hot Summer, loosely based on the Martin Ritt movie of the same name from the previous decade. He passed away in 1966 at the age of 46.

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