Marion Hargrove was an author, Hollywood screenwriter, and writer for television whose initial success came through a series of accidents, including numerous experiences in military training. Born Edward Thomas Marion Lawton Hargrove, Jr. in Mt. Olive, NC, and later raised in Charlotte, he developed an interest in journalism while in high school. At age 20, he took a full-time job with the Charlotte News as a features and women's page editor as well as a writer and rewrite man. In July of 1941. Hargrove was drafted and, through a combination of physical ineptitude and an individualistic approach to following orders, achieved an astonishing level of incompetence as a rookie soldier. He became a legendary incompetent at Fort Bragg, the camp where he was stationed, and he wrote about some of his experiences for his old newspaper.
Fate took a hand in early 1942 when, by sheer chance, he was assigned to show playwright Maxwell Anderson around the base. He presented some of his writing about his comical exploits to Anderson, who, in turn, passed it along to publisher Henry Holt, who was impressed enough to assemble Hargrove's columns into a book, which was published as See Here, Private Hargrove (1942). The book enjoyed combined hardcover and paperback sales of over two-and-a-half-million copies and also earned the blessing of the War Department, which wisely saw Hargrove's gently self-deprecating, humorous vignettes of army life as a way of reassuring prospective draftees and their families that military service wasn't all danger and hardship. Indeed, the book served the same purpose that movies such as Universal's Buck Privates and In the Navy, starring Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, or Warner Bros.' You're in the Army Now with Phil Silvers and Jimmy Durante did, helping to ease civilians into the notion of military service with comedy. Hargrove's book was a kind of "don't let this happen to you" guide to survival in uniform, the flesh-and-blood version of what the cartoon character Private SNAFU did for men already in the service.
Hollywood was unable to ignore such success on the literary front and MGM, no less, bought the screen rights in order that it might compete in the service comedy sweepstakes with Universal and Warner Bros. Robert Walker became the screen embodiment of Marion Hargrove in See Here, Private Hargrove and its sequel, What Next, Corporal Hargrove?, released in the late winter of 1944 and 1945, respectively. The sales of his book made Hargrove one of the most widely read authors in the country. He was assigned to write for the army publication Yank and handled its coverage of the China and Burma campaigns. After World War II, he became a leading spokesman for the rights of veterans and continued his career as a journalist. He suddenly found himself thrust to the top of the literary profession in New York, writing for top magazines, and discovered that he hated it. Being in uniform had shielded him from the down-side of the fame he'd achieved in the years 1942-1945, but as a civilian in the thick of it, he found that he couldn't abide the spotlight or the expectations of audiences numbering in the millions -- he found himself in an overheated, pressure cooker-like environment, expected to be brilliant every week, and didn't like what he found there.
Hargrove saw success with his novel Something's Got to Give (1947), and returned to military subjects with The Girl He Left Behind: Or All Quiet on the Third Platoon (1956), about a draftee in the peace-time army, which was filmed by Warner Bros. with Tab Hunter and Natalie Wood. Hargrove remained associated with Warner Bros. through its film and television divisions. He became closely associated with writer/producer Roy Huggins, writing the screenplay adaptation of Huggins' novel Girl on the Run, the thriller that served as the pilot for the series 77 Sunset Strip, and also wrote episodes of Maverick, where he established the beginning of a longtime professional relationship with the series' star, James Garner. In 1960, Hargrove co-authored the screenplay adaptation of Cash McCall, a drama that would star Garner and Natalie Wood. He was also the author of the screenplay for the 1962 film version of the Broadway hit The Music Man, and the comedy Boys' Night Out (1962), also starring Garner.
During the 1960s, he wrote scripts for I Spy and the short-lived series Destry, and at the end of the decade worked on the award-winning series My World and Welcome to It. In the 1970s, he resumed his association with James Garner from his days on Maverick with the Western series Nichols, and also wrote scripts for The Waltons, The Brothers O'Toole, Bert D'Angelo/Superstar, Eight Is Enough, and Fantasy Island, and when Bret Maverick went on the air in 1981, Hargrove was one of the writers. Hargrove's son, Dean Hargrove, began writing for television in the early '60s on series such as The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and has been a successful producer and executive producer since the 1970s, associated with series such as Columbo and the revivals of Perry Mason.