Hecht, Ben

Hecht, Ben

(hĕkt), 1894–1964, American writer, b. New York City. He grew up in Wisconsin and, while still in his teens, worked on newspapers in Chicago. Early in his career he became involved in the Chicago literary movement of the time, founding in 1923 the Chicago Literary Times, an iconoclastic review that he edited for two years. A stormy and controversial figure, Hecht was known for a variety of literary and theatrical activities. He wrote novels, short-story collections, and plays, and he wrote, directed, and produced for the motion-picture industry. During four decades, he worked on some 200 movies. With Charles MacArthur, he collaborated on several film scripts and plays, of which The Front Page (1928), an irreverent drama of newspaper life, is the most famous. His other credits include Twentieth Century (1934), Wuthering Heights (1939), Spellbound (1945), and Notorious (1946). Hecht also served as a "script doctor" on many films. In the 1940s he devoted himself to a nationwide campaign that pressured the Roosevelt administration to rescue European Jews from the Nazi extermination.

Bibliography

See his autobiography, A Child of the Century (1954); biographies by J. Gorbach (2019) and A. Hoffman (2019).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/

Hecht, Ben

(1893–1964) screenwriter, director, playwright; born in New York City. After youthful forays as a concert violinist and circus acrobat, he went to Chicago at age 16 and became a newspaper reporter. He was a foreign correspondent in World War I; back in Chicago he tried his hand at more serious fiction and started the Chicago Literary Times (1923–25). During the next 40 years he was one of the most sought after and admired scriptwriters in Hollywood, writing, alone or in collaboration, close to 100 screenplays (many for which he received no credit). He did receive Oscars for Underworld (1927) and The Scoundrel (1935); the latter he cowrote and codirected with Charles MacArthur, his collaborator on various other films and plays, including Front Page (1928) and Twentieth Century (1932). Because of his open support of the Jewish struggle against the British in Palestine, his name was removed from all his films shown in Britain during the late 1940s. He wrote his autobiography A Child of the Century (1954).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.