Ring Lardner, Jr.
|Ring Lardner, Jr.|
|Born||Ringgold Wilmer Lardner, Jr.
August 19, 1915
|Died||October 31, 2000
Manhattan, New York
Ringgold Wilmer "Ring" Lardner, Jr. (August 19, 1915 – October 31, 2000) was an American journalist and screenwriter blacklisted by the Hollywood movie studios during the Red Scare of the late 1940s and 1950s.
Born in Chicago, he was the son of Ellis (Abbott) and journalist and humorist, Ring Lardner, and the brother of sports writer John Lardner. After being educated at Phillips Academy, Andover, and Princeton University he became a reporter on the New York Daily Mirror. Lardner joined the US Communist Party in 1936.
Ring Lardner Jr. moved to Hollywood where he worked as a publicist and "script doctor" before writing his own material. This included Woman of the Year, a film that won him an Academy Award for Writing Original Screenplay in 1942. He also worked on the scripts for the films Laura (1944), Brotherhood of Man (1946), Forever Amber (1947), and M*A*S*H (1970). The script of the latter earned him an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, but Lardner would later distance himself from the film due to the fact that director Robert Altman changed the script so much.
Lardner held strong left-wing views and during the Spanish Civil War he helped raise funds for the Republican cause. He was also involved in organizing anti-fascist demonstrations. His brother, James Lardner, was a member of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, and was killed in action in Spain in 1938. Although his political involvement upset the owners of the film studios, he continued to be given work and in 1947 became one of the highest paid scriptwriters in Hollywood when he signed a contract with 20th Century Fox at $2,000 a week.
After the Second World War the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) began an investigation into the Hollywood motion picture industry. In September, 1947, the HUAC interviewed 41 people who were working in Hollywood. These people attended voluntarily and became known as "friendly witnesses". During their interviews they named several people whom they accused of holding left-wing views.
Lardner appeared before the HUAC on October 30, 1947, but like Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Albert Maltz, Adrian Scott, Dalton Trumbo, Lester Cole, Edward Dmytryk, Samuel Ornitz and John Howard Lawson, he refused to answer any questions. Known as the "Hollywood Ten", they claimed that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution clearly gave them the right to do this. The HUAC and the courts during appeals disagreed and all were found guilty of contempt of Congress. Lardner was sentenced to 12 months in Danbury Prison and fined $1,000. He had been dismissed by Fox on October 28, 1947.
Blacklisted by the Hollywood studios, Lardner worked for the next couple of years on the novel, The Ecstasy of Owen Muir (1954). He moved to England for a time where he wrote under several pseudonyms for television series such as The Adventures of Robin Hood. The blacklist was lifted when producer Martin Ransohoff and director Norman Jewison gave him screen credit for writing 1965's The Cincinnati Kid. Lardner's later work included M*A*S*H (1970), for which he won the Academy Award for Writing Adapted Screenplay, and The Greatest (1977). His final film project was an adaptation of Roger Kahn's classic book, The Boys of Summer. To Ring's great regret, funding did not materialize.
According to Hungarian writer Miklós Vámos—who visited Lardner several times before his death—Lardner won an Academy Award for a movie he wrote under a pseudonym. Lardner refused to tell which movie it was, saying that it would be unfair to reveal it because the writer who allowed Lardner, Jr., to use his name as a front (as Lardner's pseudonym) was doing him a big favor at the time.
In the episode from the second season of The West Wing entitled "Somebody's Going to Emergency, Somebody's Going to Jail" (written by Paul Redford and Aaron Sorkin), Sam Seaborn, while attempting to gain a pardon for someone whom he believed had been falsely convicted of communist espionage in the 1950s, comments to an FBI agent "Ring Lardner's just died. How many years does he get back?"
In an episode of NBC's Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (also written by Aaron Sorkin), an elderly man is discovered in the studio. When asked his name, he replies first "Bessie Bibermann", then "Scott Trumbo", then "Cole Lardner". All six names are last names of members of the Hollywood Ten.
- The Hollywood Ten documentary.