Alec Coppel (17 September 1907 – 22 January 1972) was an Australian-born screenwriter, novelist and playwright. He spent the majority of his career in London and Hollywood, specialising in light thrillers, mysteries and sex comedies. He is best known for the films Vertigo (1958), The Captain's Paradise (1953), Mr Denning Drives North (1951) and Obsession (1949), and the plays I Killed the Count and The Gazebo.
Coppel was born in Melbourne and attended Wesley College. He moved to England in the 1920s to study medicine at Cambridge University, but dropped out before graduating and went to work in advertising, writing in his spare time. Coppel's first stage plays were Short Circuit (1935) and The Stars Foretell (1936).
I Killed the Count
His first big success was his play I Killed the Count (1937), which had a successful run in the West End. Coppel turned it into a novel (1939), screenplay and radio play. It also led to him receiving screenwriting offers.
His script credits include Over the Moon (1939), the film version of I Killed the Count (1939), and Just like a Woman (1939).Coppel contributed to the book of a revue, Let's Pretend (1940), and wrote a new play, Believe It Or Not (1940).
Return to Australia
Among the plays he presented there was the world premiere of his own Mr Smart Guy (1941). He also wrote for radio and contributed to the script of Smithy (1946), one of the few feature films made in Australia during this time.
Return to London
Coppel moved back to London towards the end of the war, and continued to alternate between novels, plays and screenplays.
His plays included My Friend Lester (1947) and A Man About a Dog (1949). His scripts included The Brass Monkey (1948), Woman Hater (1948), Obsession (1949) (based on A Man About a Dog), Two on the Tiles (1951), and The Smart Aleck (1951) (based on Mr Smart Guy).
He became the first Australian to receive an Academy Award nomination for screenwriting with The Captain's Paradise, which was nominated for Best Story in 1953. That year he published a novel The Last Parable (1953).
Coppel was used by Warwick Pictures on Hell Below Zero (1954) and The Black Knight (1954); like No Highway and Captain's Paradise they were British films with American stars and Coppel wanted to work in Hollywood.
Move to Hollywood
Coppel moved to Los Angeles in 1954, where he wrote a number of scripts. He did some uncredited work on To Catch a Thief (1955) and did the thriller Appointment with a Shadow (1957). Hitchcock hired him to write Vertigo (1958).
He wrote the plays The Genius and the Goddess (1957) and The Joshua Tree (1958), and saw The Captain's Paradise adapted into a musical as Oh, Captain! (1958). He had a big hit with The Gazebo (1959), based on a story by Coppel and his wife; this was later filmed although someone else did the screenplay. Coppel adapted The Captain's Paradise (1961) for stage and did a swashbuckler for MGM Swordsman of Siena (1962).
He spent the 1960s mostly working in Europe and London. He adapted his own story "Laughs with a Stranger" into Moment to Moment (1966).
He also wrote the plays Not in My Bed, You Don’t (1968), Cadenza and A Bird in the Nest and the TV play A Kiss is Just a Kiss (1971).
He was married twice. He is survived by his son Chris Coppel who lives in the UK and continues to represent his father's works.
|1937||Over the Moon||Thornton Freeland||Co-screenplay|
|1939||I Killed the Count||Frederic Zelnik||Screenplay, based on his play|
|1939||Just Like a Woman||Paul L. Stein||Co-screenplay|
|1946||Smithy||Ken G. Hall||Co-screenplay|
|1948||Brass Monkey||Thornton Freeland||Screenplay|
|1948||Woman Hater||Terence Young||Based on short story|
|1949||Obsession||Edward Dmytryk||Screenplay, dialogue director; based on his novel, A Man About a Dog|
|1950||Two on the Tiles||John Guillermin||Screenplay|
|1951||The Smart Aleck||John Guillermin||Screenplay, based on his play Mr Smart Guy|
|1951||No Highway in the Sky||Henry Koster||Co-screenplay|
|1951||Mr. Denning Drives North||Anthony Kimmins||Screenplay, based on his novel|
|1953||The Captain's Paradise||Anthony Kimmins||Co-screenplay|
|1954||Hell Below Zero||Mark Robson||Co-screenplay|
|1954||The Black Knight||Tay Garnett||Co-screenplay|
|1954||To Catch a Thief||Alfred Hitchcock||Uncredited contribution to script|
|1957||Appointment with a Shadow||Richard Carlson||Screenplay|
|1959||The Gazebo||George Marshall||Based on his play|
|1962||Swordsman of Siena||Étienne Perier||Co-screenplay|
|1966||Moment to Moment||Mervyn LeRoy||Co-screenplay|
|1968||The Bliss of Mrs. Blossom||Joseph McGrath||Co-screenplay, based on his play A Bird in the Nest|
|1971||The Statue||Rod Amateau||Co-screenplay, based on his play Chip, Chip, Chip|
|1971||Jo||Jean Girault||French film. Based on his play The Gazebo|
- The Chinese Room
- Short Circuit (1935)
- The Stars Foretell (1936)
- I Killed the Count (1937)
- Let's Pretend (1938) – contributed to book of a revue
- Believe it Or Not (1940)
- Mr Smart Guy (1941)
- Saturday's Child (1946)
- My Friend Lester (1947)
- A Man About a Dog (1949)
- The Genius and the Goddess (1957)
- The Joshua Tree (1958) – from a story by Myra and Alec Coppel
- Oh, Captain! (1958) – based on his story only
- The Gazebo (1959) – from a story by Myra and Alec Coppel
- Viva Le Difference (1960)
- The Captain's Paradise (1961)
- Not in My Bed, You Don’t (1968) – with Myra Coppel
- Cadenza (1977)
- A Bird in the Nest
- Chip, Chip, Chip
- I Killed the Count (London: Blackie, 1939)
- A Man About a Dog (London: George G Harrap and Company Ltd, 1947) (US: Over the Line)
- Mr Denning Drives North (London: George G Harrap & Co Ltd, 1950)
- The Last Parable (London: Arthur Baker, 1953)
- Moment to Moment (Greenwich: Fawcett Publications, 1966)
- Tweedledum and Tweedledee (London: Geoffrey Bles, 1967)
- Peace in Our Time (1940) – British film
- "HE KILLED THE COUNT!—and became a Famous Playwright!". Table Talk. Melbourne. 7 September 1939. p. 6. Retrieved 19 February 2015 – via National Library of Australia.
- "Belated £3,000 for playwright". The Argus. Melbourne. 3 August 1951. p. 7. Retrieved 19 February 2015 – via National Library of Australia.
- Whitehall Productions at AusStage
- Vagg, Stephen. 'Alec Coppel: Australian Playwright and Survivor.' Australasian Drama Studies, No. 56, Apr 2010: 219-232.
- "FILMLAND EVENTS: Miss Lindfors Will Appear on Broadway" Los Angeles Times 12 Sep 1960: C11.
- "Britain Lean But Alive And Kicking". The Sun (11,638) (LATE FINAL EXTRA ed.). Sydney. 14 May 1947. p. 10. Retrieved 22 October 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
- Guests for Dinner at AustLit
- "Guests for dinner". The Australian Women's Weekly. 24 ([?]). 12 December 1956. p. 40. Retrieved 11 June 2016 – via National Library of Australia.
- "BROADCAST FEATURES From A.B.C. Stations." Riverine Herald. Echuca, Vic. 15 November 1940. p. 1. Retrieved 19 February 2015 – via National Library of Australia.
- "RADIOPINION". Sunday Mail. Brisbane. 28 May 1950. p. 8. Retrieved 19 February 2015 – via National Library of Australia.