John Howard Lawson

Active - 1929 - 1976  |   Born - Sep 25, 1894   |   Died - Jan 1, 1977   |   Genres - Drama, War, Crime, Adventure

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John Howard Lawson had an exciting life before becoming a screenwriter and a playwright. As a young man during WW I, he was a volunteer ambulance driver for the Red Cross; there his peers were Ernest Hemingway, Dos Passos, and E.E. Cummings. Following the war, he began editing a newspaper in Rome and working as a publicity director for the American Red Cross. During the '20s and '30s, he began writing numerous plays, most of them promoting Marxism; some of these plays made it to Broadway. He sold his first movie screenplay in 1920 to Paramount, and eight years later moved to Hollywood to become a contract writer who created screenplays, original stories, and scripts for several films. Lawson became a co-founder of the Screen Writers Guild in 1933; that year he also served as its first president. Many of Lawson's films were political and embraced socialistic concepts, such as his tribute to the US-USSR alliance formed during WW II, CounterAttack (1945). The Spanish Civil War was also a favorite topic for Lawson in films such as Blockade (1938). In 1948, Lawson became one of the notorious Hollywood Ten when he refused to co-operate with the House Un-American Activities Committee investigators. He was sentenced to one year in prison and was subsequently blacklisted in Hollywood. Lawson then exiled himself to Mexico where he began writing books on drama and filmmaking such as Film in the Battle of Ideas (1953), and Film: The Creative Process (1964). Later he also went on lecture tours in American universities where he talked about theater and cinema.

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