Cover image for The real Nick and Nora : Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, writers of stage and screen classics
The real Nick and Nora : Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, writers of stage and screen classics
Goodrich, David L.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Carbondale : Southern Illinois University Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
xiv, 304 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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PS3513.O53515 Z68 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett wrote the screenplays for some of America's most treasured movies, including ""It's a Wonderful Life"", ""The Thin Man"", ""Easter Parade"", ""Father of the Bride"", ""Naughty Marietta"" and ""Seven Brides for Seven Brothers"". Legendary films, indeed, but writing both the play and screenplay for ""The Diary of Anne Frank"" was their crowning achievement. Controlled chaos best describes their writing method. They discussed a scene at length, sometimes acting it out. Afterwards, they each wrote a draft, which they exchanged. ""Then"", Frances said, ""began 'free criticism' - which sometimes erupted into screaming matches"". Noisy and contentious, the method worked splendidly. Enormously successful and remarkably prolific, Goodrich and Hackett began their 34-year collaboration in 1928. Married after the first of their five plays became a hit, they were in many ways an unlikely pair. Frances, the privileged daughter of well-to-do parents, graduated from Vassar, then played minor parts on Broadway. Albert's mother put him on stage at age five, when his father died, to help pay the bills, and he became a highly paid comedian. The Hackett's were known for their wit and high spirits and the pleasure of their Bel Air dinner parties. They waged memorable battles with their powerful bosses and were key activists in the stressful creation of the Screen Writers Guild. Once they had created Nick and Nora Charles, ""The Thin Man""'s bright, charming, sophisticated lead couple, played memorably by William Powell and Myrna Loy, many people saw a strong resemblance, and the Hacketts acknowledged that they ""put themselves into"" Nick and Nora. This text is an assemblage of anecdotes featuring some of the most talented writers and the brightest lights of American stage and screen. The work was arduous, the parties luminous. On any given night the guests singing and acting out scripts at a party might include F. Scott Fitzgerald and Sheilagh Graham, S.J. Perelman, Oscar Levant, Ogden Nash, Judy Garland, Abe Burrows, Hoagy Carmichael, Johnny Mercer, Ira Gershwin, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Pat O'Brien, Dick Powell and June Allyson, Dashiell Hammett, Lillian Hellman, James Cagney and Dorothy Parker.

Author Notes

David L. Goodrich is the nephew of Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett. He was born in New York City and lives there with his wife. A Yale graduate, he has published magazine fiction and nonfiction, plus two other nonfiction books and a novel

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Although published by an academic press, this reverent biography is neither critical nor analytical. It is, however, factually verifiable, strongly documented, and extensively researched--a model of the biographic genre. The subjects are the author's aunt and uncle, important screenwriters who in a relationship that spanned 50 years were responsible for It's a Wonderful Life, the "Thin Man" series, and the stage and screen versions of The Diary of Anne Frank. Goodrich's writing of fact foregrounds the influence of experimental conditioning: where Hackett and Goodrich were in their development and how they got to be who they were. His research allows him to shed light on his subjects' lives, creating a sense of continuity to the biographical narrative. In addition, the reporting is not sensational, even though it is a showbiz bio and reads as easily as any page-turner. Goodrich extends his coverage to the lawsuits concerning the Anne Frank dramatization and an explanation why Susan Strasberg did not repeat her stage role on screen. The book also contains 17 pages of worthwhile snapshots, newspaper clips, and Al Hirschfield cartoons. For general and undergraduate collections. A. Hirsh emeritus, Central Connecticut State University

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introductionp. 1
1 Frances, the Lawn Childp. 7
2 Albert, the Nickelodeon Childp. 21
3 Working, Fighting, and Living Togetherp. 37
4 Hollywood 1931: A Hopeful Baptismp. 54
5 Entering Hollywood's Golden Agep. 59
6 The Thin Manp. 75
7 Naughty Marietta and Ah, Wilderness!p. 84
8 Fighting for Writers' Rightsp. 95
9 Rose Marie, Art Collecting, and Thin Man Strugglesp. 106
10 The Garden of Allahp. 115
11 A "Lovely Nervous Breakdown"p. 123
12 A Working Sabbatical: 1939-1943p. 136
13 "Paramount's Lot Is Not a Happy One"p. 150
14 It's Not a Wonderful Lifep. 160
15 Easter Parade and Other Judy Garland Hitsp. 169
16 Father of the Bridep. 182
17 Seven Brides for Seven Brothersp. 189
18 Writing The Diary of Anne Frankp. 203
19 Getting The Diary of Anne Frank on the Stagep. 218
20 After The Diaryp. 229
21 Hollywood Finalep. 245
22 Back in New Yorkp. 255
Epiloguep. 269
Filmographyp. 275
Notesp. 277
Select Bibliographyp. 289
Indexp. 295