John L. Balderston

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John L. Balderston (October 22, 1889, in Philadelphia – March 8, 1954, in Los Angeles) was an American playwright and screenwriter best known for his horror and fantasy scripts. He wrote the plays Berkley Square and Dracula.

Biography[edit]

Journalist[edit]

Balderston began his career as a journalist in 1912 while still a student at Columbia University; he worked as the New York correspondent for the Philadelphia Record. He worked as European war correspondent during World War I for the McClure Newspaper Syndicate, then was director of information in England and Ireland for the US Committee on Public Information.

In 1916 he wrote The Brooke Kerith, about the life of Jesus, with George More. In 1919 he a play The Genius of the Marne.

In the early 1920s he was the editor of Outlook magazine in London and then head of the London bureau for the New York World.[1][2]

Playwright[edit]

Balderson wrote a play about Bacon and Shakespeare, Clown of Stratford in the mid 1920a.

Balderston achieved success as a playwright in 1926 with the London production of his play Berkley Square which he had written with Jack Squire, the editor of The London Mercury. It was adapted from Henry James' The Sense of the Past.

In 1927, he was retained by Horace Liveright to revise Hamilton Deane's stage adaptation of Dracula for its American production. Balderston did some significant work on the adaptation, which was an enormous success when it debuted in October, running for 261 performances and making a star of Bela Lugosi.

Deane then hired Balderston to adapt Peggy Webling's 1927 play version of Frankenstein for American audiences. However this did not make it to Broadway.[3]

Berkley Square was produced on Broadway from 1929-30, starring Leslie Howard. It ran for 229 performances.

Screenwriter[edit]

Balderston's play of Dracula formed the basis of the 1931 film version starring Lugosi, made by Universal Pictures. Universal then bought his adaptation for Frankenstein and used it as the basis for the film Frankenstein (1932).

Balderston left journalism in 1931 when theNew York World went out of business.

Universal hired Balderston to adapt a story on Cagliostro in The Mummy (1932). He wrote a version of The Invisible Man for James Whale which was not used.[4]

Balderston returned to Broadway in 1932, working with J.E. Hore on Red Planet.[5] It only ran seven performances. For MGM he did an unused treatment of She: A Story of Adventure in 1932 and did some uncredited work on Smilin' Through (1932).

He is credited as screenwriter on the adaptation of Berkeley Square (1933).

Balderston was one of several writers on The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935), which earned him an Oscar nomination. He worked on The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1935) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and was the last writer on Mad Love (1935). He was an uncredited contributor to the script of Mark of the Vampire (1935) and wrote a version of Dracula's Daughter (1936) for David O. Selznick which was sold to Universal.

Balderston worked on Peter Ibbetson (1935) for Henry Hathaway. He was one of several writers on The Amazing Quest of Ernest Bliss (1936) and did The Last of the Mohicans (1936) with Philip Dunne.

He adapted a Hungarian play into Farewell Performance for the English stage in 1936.[6]

In Hollywood, Balderston specialised in British themed subjects: The Man Who Changed His Mind (1936); Beloved Enemy (1936) for Sam Goldwyn; The Prisoner of Zenda (1937) for Selznick. He wrote an unused script, Murder in Church in 1938 and was one of the team of writers who collaborated on the 1939 film adaptation of Gone with the Wind for Selznick.

He wrote a musical for Fox, Little Old New York (1940) then adapted Victory (1940) for Paramount.

At MGM he worked on Smilin' Through (1941), Stand By for Action (1942), and Tennessee Johnson (1942). He was also one of the writers on 1944's Gaslight, which earned him his second Academy Award nomination. He also wrote a book Chicago Blueprint, which was published in 1943.[7]

Later Years[edit]

In 1948 he co-wrote a novel about Caesar and Cleopatra, A Goddess to a God.[8]

Balderston did a treatment of Red Planet which became Red Planet Mars (1952). In 1952 he was appointed lecturer in drama at the University of Southern California.[9]

In 1953 it was announced Balderstone and the heirs of Peggy Webling had settled a lawsuit with Universal over Frankenstein Under their original contract they were to be paid $20,000 plus 1% gross of any films that resulted from their work, including any sequel - and there were several Frankenstein films.[10]

He died of a heart attack in Beverly Hills in 1954.[11][12]

Select writing credits[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Inventory of the John L. Balderston Papers, 1915-1950", *T-Mss-1954-002 Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts accessed 11 December 2012
  2. ^ "BASED ON GRAFT.". The Bundaberg Mail. 54, (8,710). Queensland, Australia. 19 June 1924. p. 4. Retrieved 4 October 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  3. ^ "The World of Pictures.". The Brisbane Courier (22,947). Queensland, Australia. 15 August 1931. p. 19. Retrieved 4 October 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  4. ^ ""THE INVISIBLE MAN"". The Daily News. LI, (18,023). Western Australia. 16 December 1932. p. 10 (HOME EDITION). Retrieved 4 October 2017 – via National Library of Australia. 
  5. ^ Mars as the Source of a New Civilization in a Drama Entitled "Red Planet." By BROOKS ATKINSON.. New York Times (1923-Current file); New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]19 Dec 1932: 19.
  6. ^ MARY ELLIS RECEIVES PLAUDITS IN LONDON: She is Praised for Varied Role in 'Farewell Performance,' From the Hungarian. Special Cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. New York Times (1923-Current file); New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]11 Sep 1936: 28.
  7. ^ Some 'Hitlerian' Memos: CHICAGO BLUEPRINT. Translated by John L. Balderston from papers submitted to the Fuehrer by Supreme High Control Board, Sector America, with marginal comments and inserts, many initialed "A.H." 127 pp. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. $1. Storck, John. New York Times (1923-Current file); New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]26 Sep 1943: BR26.
  8. ^ Cleopatra's Advice to Caesar: A GODDESS TO A GOD. By John L. Balderston and Sybil Bolitho. 211 pp. New York: The Macmillan Company. $3. By ALICE S. MORRIS. New York Times (1923-Current file); New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]14 Nov 1948: BR11.
  9. ^ John L. Balderston Named Lecturer in Drama at SC Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif]28 Aug 1952: 4.
  10. ^ HOLLYWOOD REPORT: A Wider, Higher, Stereophonic 'Melba' Emerges -- Call of the Wild -- Addenda By THOMAS M. PRYORHOLLYWOOD.. New York Times (1923-Current file); New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]24 May 1953: X5.
  11. ^ "PERSONAL.". The West Australian. Perth: National Library of Australia. 11 March 1954. p. 3. Retrieved 11 December 2012. 
  12. ^ MR JOHN BALDERSTON: An Appreciation The Manchester Guardian (1901-1959); Manchester (UK) [Manchester (UK)]13 Mar 1954: 10.

External links[edit]