James K. McGuinness

Active - 1927 - 1950  |   Born - Dec 20, 1893   |   Genres - Drama, Action

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Biography by Hal Erickson

American screenwriter James Kevin McGuinness started at Fox, where he worked on such early talkies as The Black Watch (1929) and Salute (1929). In 1933, McGuinness signed on at MGM as a screenwriter, associate producer, and, eventually, full producer. Seldom working on shooting scripts, he was essentially a story man: his original treatment for the Marx Brothers' 1935 vehicle A Night at the Opera bears little resemblance to the finished film, beyond a handful of characters and situations. By 1941, McGuinness was the second highest-paid writer in Hollywood, ranking just below Jo Swerling. In 1930, he directed his only film, The Woman From Hell; and in 1943, he briefly turned to acting (after a fashion) as narrator of the patriotic documentary The Battle of Midway. After leaving MGM in the late 1940s, he wrote and produced at Columbia and RKO until his retirement. Beyond his work on such memorable films as Tarzan and His Mate (1934) and China Seas, McGuinness is most famous (or, in some circles, infamous) for his reactionary right-wing political beliefs. Upset with the liberal slant of the Screen Writers Guild, McGuinness and several other conservative writers formed the studio-approved Screen Playwrights union, and during the 1947 HUAC investigation of alleged communist activities in Hollywood, "friendly witness" James Kevin McGuinness fingered several of his fellow screenwriters as potential subversives.

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