Norman Panama

Active - 1942 - 2007  |   Born - Apr 21, 1914   |   Died - Jan 13, 2003   |   Genres - Comedy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

While attending the University of Chicago in the early 1930s, Norman Panama collaborated on a play with his classmate Melvin Frank. It was the beginning of a partnership that would span nearly thirty years. Panama and Frank went on to write sketches for the 1939 Shubert revue Keep Off the Grass, and to provide gags for such radio yockmeisters as Rudy Vallee, Groucho Marx, and especially Bob Hope. The team followed Hope to Hollywood, where they received their first screenwriting credit in the 1942 Hope vehicle My Favorite Blonde. This led to a long-term contract with Paramount Pictures, thence to Panama and Frank' s first producer-director assignment, MGM's The Reformer and the Redhead (1950). Alternating producing and directing responsibilities, they were responsible for such memorable 1950s comic efforts as Danny Kaye's The Court Jester (1956) and the 1959 film version of their own 1956 Broadway musical, Li'l Abner. Occasionally, and effectively, the team would go "straight" with hard-hitting dramatic fare like 1952's Above and Beyond, a dramatization of the dropping of the A-bomb on Hiroshima. The team dissolved amicably in 1966; on his own, Panama directed Bob Hope's How to Commit Marriage (1966), the Rowan and Martin vehicle The Maltese Bippy (1969), and the oddball Elliott Gould-Diane Keaton romantic comedy I Will, I Will...For Now. Norman Panama's last credit was the Australian TV movie Barnaby and Me.

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