The Classical American Screenplay

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The acknowledgment of the art and craft of the screenplay, happily, was apparent from the beginning of the

Academy Award® Oscars® in 1928, which virtually coincided with the introduction of sound and dialogue in cinema. Also important from the first Oscars® down to the present, the Academy has understood the importance of two distinct award categories for screenwriting: Best Original Screenplay, the first award going to one of the giants of early screenwriting, Ben Hecht (18941964), for Underworld (1927), and Best Adaptation. The first Oscar® for Adaptation was given in 1931 to Howard Estabrook (1884-1978) for Cimarron, based on Edna Ferber's novel.

As screen historians have noted, it was no accident that once sound films began, Hollywood rushed to entice Broadway playwrights and American novelists to move to Beverly Hills and Los Angeles. Ben Hecht was a well respected playwright before he moved to California. He wrote the stage play The Front Page, with Charles MacArthur (1895-1956), which became the hit film of 1931, ironically written from stage to screen by two other writers, Bartlett Cormack (1898-1942) and Charles Lederer (1911-1976). The list of Broadway playwrights and noted American novelists who went to Hollywood is a long one. It includes everyone from Sydney Howard (1885-1956), whose Pulitzer Prize-winning play, They Knew What They Wanted (1924), was made into three different films, and Preston Sturges (1898-1959), who became the first ever to have the credit "written and directed by'' on the screen (for The Great McGinty, 1940, for which he received the Oscar®). It also included Robert E. Sherwood, who won an Oscar® for The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). Others, such as Dudley Nichols (1895-1960), writer of award-winning hits including The Informer (1935, Oscar®), Bringing Up

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