Tuesday, February 5, 2019

NOTORIOUS BEN HECHT NYTBR 4/21 https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/17/books/review/adina-hoffman-julien-gorbach-ben-hecht-biography.html

4/21, New York Times Book Review on NOTORIOUS BEN HECHT. Quite an even-handed look.
CONGRATS to Purdue University Press and Julien Gorbach!!



Congratulations to Julien Gorbach on the publication of NOTORIOUS BEN HECHT on
March 15, 2019. A wonderful in-dept look at a man whose career spanned reporting on corruption on Chicago, writing Broadway hits like Front Page in NY, as a famous wit of the Algonquin Roundtable, winning an Emmyfor the invention of the modern gangster movie in Hollywood, where he wrote Scarface and Notorious, Hecht organized entertainers to save Europe's Jews and later joined forces with notorious gangster Mickey Cohen to fight for a Jewish stsate. Writer, thinker, famous in his time, offers wisdom for ours in this perceptive book.

From Hecht's message to the world at this time 
"During the Second World War, we witnessed mass man’s capacity for genocide.The war ended with the atom bomb. Through the late 20th century, we were caught in the thrall of a nuclear arms race, remaining fifteen minutes from global nuclear holocaust.
Now, in addition to “loose nukes,” we are steadily, but relentlessly, driving a global mass extinction event, exhausting our basic resources, so that scarcity and mass migration will  increasingly stoke global conflict."
Algonquin Roundtable
toast by Julien Gorbach to the spirit of Ben Hecht, 3/9

HECHT RECEIVES OSCAR FOR 1st modern Gangster movie.
Hecht's Underworld is considered the first modern gangster movie. Though it opened with modest hopes, it garnered massive box-office success, and Hecht would receive an Oscar for best original story at the first Academy Awards ceremony, on May 16, 1929. “Here’s to crime,” wrote a reviewer for Motion Picture Classic.“Ever since Underworld came through with flying colors, most every producer including its particular sponsor, Paramount, has been trying to duplicate it.”
In Hecht’s follow-up, Scarface, written after the stock market crash, he would push into far darker territory, appealing to a more sophisticated, or more jaundiced, audience. The differences between the two films reflect the contrasts between Hecht’s worldview before and after his experience in Germany, as well as the changes wrought by Prohibition in Chicago. While Underworld had portrayed the gritty era of the First Ward and the Gangsters’ Ball, Scarface depicted corporate criminal syndicates that had developed in response to the Volstead Act, engulfing the power structures of the city.
The result was a culture and politics suffused with crime. Scarface capitalized on the cult of personality around Al Capone, notorious for a ruthlessness that was a mix of icy calculation and ferocity. The film capitalized, as well, on the public’s appetite for violence. Its gangsters were not merely thugs but veterans of a world war, armed with its firepower and trained in military tactics. In short, whether consciously or not, Hecht’s terrifying vision of Scarface protagonist Tony Camonte and his mob was in many ways suggestive of Hitler and the Nazis, just when Hitler was poised to seize power. Like the Nazis, Camonte was a creature of the world war, born of that combination of mad viciousness and modern efficiency. Like Hitler, Camonte is a media obsession with a genius for manipulating public opinion.
But ironically, as a powerful figure who challenges the state, Camonte would also endure as Hecht’s iconic outlaw, the fearsome and fearless type Hecht would one day turn to for help when the Jews were in need. In both roles this American movie gangster, like his real-life German counterpart, personified all that had gone wrong in the world. Underworld had struck a chord because Hecht understood America’s fascination with the soul of the racketeer. His own Menckenesque contempt for hypocritical puritan morality had put him at the center of a revolution in morals and manners under way in the 1920s. Gone was the gentility of the Victorian age. After the war, a new, modern urban culture. (Below scene from Underworld)

Excerpt from THE NOTORIOUS BEN HECHT, Hollywood, his "El Dorado"

While the rest of the country was plummeting into the Depression, Ben Hecht had reached what he called “the new El Dorado.” Hollywood, which asked of writers merely their hearts and souls as the price of admission,would drive the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald to a “crack-up.”2 But there was a bright side. Hecht was ensconced during those early years on the Youngworth Ranch, a “wooden castle” and avocado farm overlooking MGM’s back lots in Culver City, and his guests for a typical night of
drinking might include the movie star Jean Harlow, soon-to-be princess of Austria Nora Gregor, director Howard Hawks, Harpo Marx, Dashiell Hammett, composer George Antheil, Charles MacArthur, and other fellow writers.
“The sun shone,” Hecht wrote. “The dinner parties looked like stage sets. International beauties sat in candle-lit café nooks, holding hands with undersized magnates. Novelists, poets and playwrights staggered bibulously in and out of swimming pools. Floperoo actors and actresses
from New York, ex-waitresses, elevator girls, light o’ loves, high school graduates with the right-size boobies all met their Good Fairy and were given seats on the royal bandwagon. And out of the hotel suites, brothels
and casinos came a noise of life undaunted such as not been heard since the Forty-niners drank themselves to death looking for nuggets.”
On the Hollywood payroll, one joined the most accomplished writers and artists of a generation. But in the heyday of the studio system, writers were paid Excerpt from The Notorious Ben Hecht--Hollywood, "the New Eldorado"more money than they had ever seen before but found themselves workers on a factory line. Here perfectionism was anathema, and an author could expect the writing conferences and other machinations of film production
to perversely salvage his or her worst ideas while shearing off the best.
“Your writing stinks,” observed MacArthur, “but you meet the people you want to be in a room with.” With fat rolls of cash, studio bosses summoned the highest class of talent if only for the sense of culture it gave them and for the feeling of superiority that came from telling such people what to do. Hecht had originally been summoned in 1926, by a cable from Herman Mankiewicz that would live on in Hollywood legend: “WILL YOU ACCEPT THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS PER WEEK TO WORK FOR PARAMOUNT PICTURES? ALL EXPENSES PAID.
Mankiewicz, who would one day script the classic newspaper film Citizen Kane (1941), was another half ne’er-do-well, half prodigy within Hecht’s close circle of friends in New York. Along with both Hecht and
MacArthur, he was by the mid-1920s a member of the Algonquin Round Table, an exclusive clique of newspaper columnists, playwrights, theater producers, and critics who met at least once a week for lunch at New York City’s Algonquin Hotel. Forever compensating for his weaknesses for drinking, gambling, and a lack of self-discipline, Mankiewicz possessed a whiplash wit that was a match for even the famously gifted Dorothy Parker.

The Notorious Ben Hecht: Iconoclastic Writer and Militant Zionist

Julien Gorbach. Purdue Univ., $32.95 trade paper (484p) ISBN 978-1-55753-865-9
This meticulously researched biography from Gorbach, an assistant communications professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, focuses on two aspects of writer Ben Hecht (1894–1964): his remarkable versatility—he produced journalism, novels, criticism, screenplays, plays, and memoirs—and his vocal support, prior to Israel’s founding, for a Jewish homeland. Gorbach argues that the seeds of Hecht’s success lay in his experiences as a reporter in 1910s and ’20s Chicago, which informed his cynical worldview and much of his best-known work, including the 1928 Broadway smash The Front Page and the 1932 film Scarface. In Hollywood, Hecht was astoundingly productive (of his more than 60 screenplays, “over half were written in two weeks or less”). This sheer output came to be seen by critics as a sign of his “shallowness and dissolute talent.” While Gorbach feels Hecht’s literary legacy is overdue for reevaluation, he admits a troubling shadow is cast by some of Hecht’s political activities, including his public advocacy of reprisals against the British soldiers occupying what was then known as Palestine. Suggesting that Hecht’s self-conscious persona as a “tough Jew” equally shaped his literary output and political ideology, Gorbach leaves readers with a richly provocative and original take on an influential writer. (Mar.)
The Notorious Ben Hecht: Iconoclastic Writer and Militant Zionist

HECHT the Newspaperman. Excerpt catches the flavor of this reporter days. "Front Page" looked back from his perch as a New York playwright--before Hollywood's siren song.

Over the next three years, it would take a series of exposés in the Lancet, a British journal, to break arguably the biggest story in the city’s history: the disgusting and dangerous conditions in the stockyards, which became the focus of Upton Sinclair’s 1906 novel The Jungle.Chicago’s newspapermen reflected the character of the city itself.

For a reporter who spent days and nights dashing between crime scenes, trolley car and machinery accidents, and the city morgue, Chicago in the throes
of its industrial boom was a raw and brutal place. Doug Fetherling puts it well in his biography of Hecht: “Chicago seemed a prairie Gomorrah where homicide was the logical solution to arguments and chicanery a natural force in the administration of justice. Streets were torn down and new ones erected, gang bosses were murdered to be supplanted by their killers, a dozen railways brought an influx of immigrants never matched by the number of people heading out. . . .

[Hecht’s] rhythms were those of the train wheels, factory whistles, gunfire and later the jazz music of a city which was, just then, exactly what [Carl] Sandburg said it was: hogbutcher, freight-handler, builder of railroads.” Or as Hecht would recall: “Trains were wrecked, hotels burned down, factories blew up. A man killed his wife in their Sedgwick Avenue flat, cut off her head and made a tobacco jar of its skull. . . . The headlines of murder, rape and swindle were ribbons around a Maypole. The Elevated squealed Hosannahs in the sooty air. The city turned like a wheel."

About the Early-Roaring 20's Hecht, who had multiple hits on Broadway including "Front Page." He resided at the Algonquin Hotel with the literary Round Table. For the curious...The Legendary Algonquin Round Table! Here "the Vicious Circle" where this infamous gang of whiplash wits gathered each week for lunch during the Roaring Twenties. 

The Round Tablers, who transformed American theater, comedy and the portrayal of journalism in popular culture, besides HECHT included Dorothy Parker, Harold Ross (founder of The New Yorker) and Robert Benchley; columnists Franklin Pierce Adams and Heywood Broun; critic Alexander Woollcott; comedian Harpo Marx; and playwrights George S. Kaufman, Marc Connelly, and Robert Sherwood. Algonquinite Edna Ferber called them “The Poison Squad,” and wrote, “They were actually merciless if they disapproved. I have never encountered a more hard-bitten crew. But if they liked what you had done, they did say so publicly and whole-heartedly.”

NOTORIOUS BEN HECHT was launched!  March 15 the book is published. Want one in advance. paper

Ben Hecht’s world, dominated by a madman and the response of the Big 3 Allies. 
the “Shakespeare of Hollywood,” was prescient about the annhilation of Europe’s Jews and an activist for survival. Propaganda, fanning hate and division, disruption as progress? This was his world also….. 

This book in paper  has just arrived in the Purdue University Press warehouse. http://www.thepress.purdue.edu/titles/format/9781557538659

The Notorious Ben Hecht, a new biography from Purdue University Press, is the
FIRST Extensive bio of Hecht, who defined his age and is again new in our time.

Ben Hecht is Hollywood’s most legendary screenwriter, but he is arguably more significant as the man who shattered the American media silence about the Nazi slaughter of European Jews. He started as a crime reporter on Chicago's gritty streets before becoming famous as a Broadway playwright with his classic newspaper comedy The Front Page. As a screenwriter, Hecht defined Hollywood’s Golden Age with scripts that included Scarface, Gone with the Wind, and Notorious.

A ferocious wit with a genius for spectacle and controversy, Hecht responded to the rise of Hitler with a massive publicity campaign that awoke the American public to the Holocaust. Soon afterward, he earned infamy when he embraced the label of Jewish “terrorist” and joined with the gangster Mickey Cohen to smuggle weapons to Palestine in the fight for a Jewish state. Julien Gorbach's biography, The Notorious Ben Hecht: Iconoclastic Writer and Military Zionist (Purdue University Press, March 2019), investigates the life and multifaceted character of this storytelling virtuoso and provocateur.

Pauline Kael, revered film critic for The New Yorker, credited Hecht with having written half the entertaining films Hollywood ever produced. Ironically, Hecht’s commercial success, as the author of many movie melodramas, damaged his literary reputation.

“He also operated in so many genres that one life—no matter how colorful, no matter how full—barely seems to have encompassed what he achieved, in journalism, in literature, on the screen, and in polemics,” said noted historian Stephen Whitfield. “Yet until now—that is, until the publication of Julien Gorbach’s lively biographical study—Hecht has eluded the grasp of scholarship. The Notorious Ben Hecht is thus a welcome corrective.”

Hecht’s importance as a versatile modern writer does not diminish the role he played in history. Born shortly before the start of the twentieth century, he came of age with the advent of mass communication, and his story vividly illustrates how mass media changed the character of our culture. But, he was among the most prominent and influential disputants in a clash of political ideas that came with the rise of Nazism, the Holocaust, and the birth of Israel.

During the 1930s, his grim view of what he called “the soul of man” allowed him to see, with far greater clarity than most, the horror at the world’s doorstep. He offered a warning, not just to the people of his day, we would do well to rediscover Ben Hecht in this time.

Advance Praise for The Notorious Ben Hecht

"Gorbach’s work accomplishes what a good biography should: It focuses on an important and interesting figure; describes a little-explored aspect of his life that affected world events; makes a larger point about the society in which he lived; and does it in a clear, coherent, and captivating fashion. The importance of Ben Hecht lies in its major theme: Hecht’s willingness to stand out as a Jew and advocate for Jewish causes when most successful Jews of his generation sublimated their ethnic identity. Hecht and the Irgun advocated increasingly extreme and violent measures. To Hecht and the Irgun, the murder of six million Jews while the world watched proved they could not count on the international community."

—Laurel Leff, Associate Professor, School of Journalism, and Stotsky Professor of
Jewish Historical and Cultural Studies, Northeastern University; Author, Buried by The Times: The Holocaust and America’s Most Important Newspaper (Cambridge University Press, 2005)

"Julien Gorbach has done more than anyone before to shine a light into the darkness of the connections between Chicago’s underworld and its rawboned journalism. While previous celebrations of Chicago’s dailies during the age of newspapers’ ascendancy made sport of recklessness, fabrication, and violence, Gorbach has revealed the ‘devil’s bargain’ struck most notably by Ben Hecht, whose own life touches the 52 lightheartedness of The Front Page only tangentially. Hecht publicly laughed at journalism while obscuring its worst secrets."

—Dr. Michael Sweeney, Editor, Journalism History;
Associate Director for Graduate Studies, Ohio University

The Notorious Ben Hecht: Iconoclastic Zionist and Militant Zionist
Purdue University Press, March 2019

Author Julien Gorbach spent most of his ten years as a daily newspaper reporter on the police beat, covering drive-by shootings and murder trials, and publishing an investigative series on killings that remained unsolved because gangs had intimidated witnesses into silence. As a freelancer, he contributed to the Boston Phoenix, Time Out New York, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and the New Orleans Gambit, among other publications. He covered Hurricane Katrina for the Boston Globe. Currently, Gorbach is an Asst. Professor at the University of Hawaii.


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