Ivan Goff

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Ivan Goff
Born 17 April 1910
Perth, Western Australia
Died 23 September 1999(1999-09-23) (aged 89)
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Occupation Screenwriter
Years active 1933–1999

Ivan Goff (17 April 1910 – 23 September 1999) was an Australian screenwriter, best known for his collaborations with Ben Roberts including White Heat (1949), Man of a Thousand Faces (1957) and the pilot for Charlie's Angels (1976).


Goff was born in Perth, the son of two concert musicians. At 15, he began writing for a local newspaper, but soon became dissatisfied by the isolation he felt. "Living in Australia made me crazy," he later said in an interview. "It took a month for a book to get to Australia, a year for a play and forever for an idea."[1]


Goff undertook a long, eventful journey to England, which included being arrested as a stowaway in Suva,[2] which he recounted in his 1933 book, No Longer Innocent.[3] He worked in several jobs, including as a bookie, while trying to break into journalism. He eventually found work with the Daily Mirror, which in the mid-1930s sent Goff to Los Angeles as the paper's Hollywood correspondent. He decided to settle there, and became a staff writer at Republic Studios, where his work included uncredited contributions to several of the westerns in The Three Mesquiteers series, and a Gene Autry vehicle, Sunset in Wyoming (1941). He then joined the staff at Warner Bros. where he wrote My Love Came Back (1940).[4]

During the war Goff joined the Army Signal Corps where he found himself making wartime propaganda shorts at the former Astoria Studios in Long Island, New York. There he met Ben Roberts, a fellow writer who had also worked at Republic. One day over lunch Roberts told Goff of an idea he had for a short story that lacked an ending. Goff came up with an ending and suggested that they turn it into a play instead of a short story. Working at night over a period of 13 months, they completed the play, which was called Portrait in Black and had runs in London and Broadway. It also sold to the movies for $100,000.[5]

At the end of the war, Roberts and Goff decided to remain as a team, and wrote Prejudice (1949), a short feature about anti-Semitism made by the Protestant Film Commission. They also wrote a screenplay based on a Ben Hecht story, The Shadow, which was never filmed, but which attracted the interest of Warner Bros. who hired them to rewrite a murder mystery, Backfire (1950). Their work on that film impressed the studio enough to sign them to a five-year contract.[6]

Although Goff and Roberts considered themselves primarily comedy writers, Warners saw them as action men and assigned them to rewrite another script, a gangster story called White Heat (1949). White Heat was based on a story submitted to the studio by Virginia Kellogg, which had been inspired by a real-life robbery. Goff and Roberts turned Kellogg's story inside out, making it a semi 'Greek tragedy' about a gangster with a mother complex. James Cagney agreed to star and the resulting film became an instant classic. Kellogg was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Story, but, under Academy rules of the time, Goff and Roberts were not.[citation needed]

Goff and Roberts went on to write several other films for Cagney, including Come Fill the Cup (1951), Shake Hands with the Devil (1960) and Man of a Thousand Faces (1957), a biopic of silent film star Lon Chaney, for which they received an Oscar nomination.

They wrote a pair of thrillers for producer Ross Hunter, Midnight Lace (1960) and an adaptation of Portrait in Black (1960). From 1954-55, Goff served as president of the screenwriters council of the Screen Writers Guild. During the 1960s Goff and Roberts turned to television and enjoyed great success over the next two decades writing and producing such series as The Rogues (1964), Mannix (1967–75), and Charlie's Angels (1976–81). He died of Alzheimer's Disease in 1999.[citation needed]


TV series[edit]


  1. ^ Hohan, William H., The New York Times (obituary), 25 September 1999
  2. ^ "STOWAWAYS." Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld) 11 Aug 1930: 10 accessed 15 December 2011
  3. ^ "NEW BOOKS." The Australian Women's Weekly 30 Dec 1933: 6 accessed 15 December 2011
  4. ^ "Perth Man in Hollywood." The West Australian 20 Jan 1939: 2; accessed 15 December 2011
  5. ^ "BIG ROYALTIES FOR AUSTRALIAN PLAYWRIGHT IN USA." The Argus (Melbourne) 23 Jan 1947: 5 accessed 15 December 2011
  6. ^ Vallance, Tom, The Independent (obituary); 28 September 1999

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