Norman Krasna

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Norman Krasna
Born (1909-11-07)November 7, 1909
Queens, New York, United States
Died November 1, 1984(1984-11-01) (aged 74)
Los Angeles, United States
Years active 1932–1964
Spouse(s) Ruth Frazee (1940–1950)
Erle Chennault Galbraith (1951–1984)

Norman Krasna (November 7, 1909 – November 1, 1984) was an American screenwriter, playwright, producer, and film director. He is best known for penning screwball comedies which centered on a case of mistaken identity. Krasna also directed three films during a forty-year career in Hollywood. He garnered four Academy Award screenwriting nominations, winning once for 1943's Princess O'Rourke, a film he also directed.

Career[edit]

Krasna was born in Queens, New York City. He attended Columbia University and St John's University School of Law, working at Macy's Department Store during the day.

He wanted to get into journalism and talked his way into a job as a copy boy for the Sunday feature department of the New York World in 1928. He quit law school, worked his way up to being a drama critic, at first for The World then the New York Evening Graphic and Exhibitors Herald World. He was offered a job with Hubert Voight in the publicity department of Warner Bros and moved to Hollywood.

Playwright[edit]

He decided to become a playwright after seeing The Front Page. To learn the craft, he retyped the Ben HechtCharles MacArthur classic more than twenty times.[1] Then while at Warners, at nights he wrote a play, Louder, Please, based on his job and heavily inspired by The Front Page.[2] He tried to sell it to Warners who were not interested but it was picked up by George Abbott who produced it on Broadway. The play had a short run, and Krasna was then offered a contract at Columbia Pictures as a junior staff writer.[3]

Hollywood[edit]

Krasna's early credits were on Hollywood Speaks (1932), That's My Boy (1932), So This Is Africa (1933) (with Wheeler and Woolsey), Parole Girl (1933), and Love, Honor, and Oh Baby! (1933).

During the evening he wrote another play, Small Miracle, which was produced on Broadway in 1934. It had a reasonable run and earned good reviews. Film rights were bought by Paramount, who hired Krasna to write the script for what became Four Hours to Kill! (1935) directed by Mitchell Leisen.[4]

For MGM, Krasna worked on Meet the Baron (1933). He went to RKO where he wrote The Richest Girl in the World (1934), which earned him an Oscar. He stayed at that studio to do Romance in Manhattan (1935) then did Hands Across the Table (1935) at Paramount.

Back at MGM, Krasna worked on Wife vs. Secretary (1936) and sold his original story Mob Rule which became Fury (1936), directed by Fritz Lang. He wrote a film for George Raft, You and Me (1938), for Paramount, hoping to direct it, but Raft objected.[5] (The film would be made two years later, Fritz Lang directing.)

At Warners he wrote The King and the Chorus Girl (1937) with good friend Groucho Marx. He moved to Universal to do As Good as Married (1937) and was back to MGM for Big City (1937) and The First Hundred Years (1938).

Krasna had one of his biggest hits with Bachelor Mother (1939) at RKO. At Universal he wrote a Deanna Durbin vehicle It's a Date (1940) and the René Clair directed The Flame of New Orleans (1940).

For Hitchcock he wrote Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941) at RKO. That studio also released Krasna's The Devil and Miss Jones (1941), which he co-produced. Also hugely popular was another Durbin vehicle, It Started with Eve (1941).

Krasna wrote The Man with Blond Hair (1941) for Broadway, which he later described as his "attempt to win the Nobel Peace Prize". It only ran seven performances and encouraged Krasna to focus on comedies for the rest of his career.

Turning director[edit]

Krasna turned director for Princess O'Rourke (1943), which earned him an Oscar for Best Screen play.

Moss Hart suggested Krasna write something like Junior Miss and Krasna responded with Dear Ruth. This was a massive hit on Broadway in 1944, running for 680 performances; the film rights were sold for over $450,000.[6] (It was the basis of the 1947 film Dear Ruth 1947). He found time to write another movie for Leisen, Practically Yours (1944).

Also enormously popular on stage was the comedy John Loves Mary (1947); it too was made into a film, in 1949, although Krasna did not work on it.

Less successful was the play Time for Elizabeth (1947), co-written with Krasna's friend Groucho Marx, which ran for only eight performances, although film rights were sold for over $500,000. (The film was never made).

Krasna directed his second feature, The Big Hangover (1950) for MGM. It was not a success.

Wald-Krasna Productions[edit]

In 1950 he and Jerry Wald formed Wald-Krasna Productions which worked out of RKO Studios for the next few years, announcing a $50 million slate of pictures.[7] They made a number of films, notably Behave Yourself! (1951), The Blue Veil (1951), Clash by Night (1952), and The Lusty Men (1952). However both Wald and Krasna became frustrated at the meddling of Howard Hughes, who ran RKO at the time. Wald bought Krasna out and he returned to writing.[8][9]

Return to Broadway[edit]

He returned to Broadway, and the comedy play Kind Sir had a decent run in 1953. He co-wrote White Christmas (1954) which was a massive hit. He wrote, produced and directed The Ambassador's Daughter (1956). This starred actor John Forsythe who at one point was under personal contract to Krasna.[10]

Krasna adapted Kind Sir as Indiscreet (1958). He followed this with another Broadway farce, Who Was That Lady I Saw You With? (1958). Krasna then adapted this play for the screen and produced what became Who Was That Lady? (1960). He did this again with Sunday in New York, which reached Broadway (with Robert Redford) in 1961 and was filmed from a Krasna script in 1963. Around this time he also wrote the script for Let's Make Love (1960), the penultimate movie for Marilyn Monroe. He wrote the screenplay as well for My Geisha (1962).

Later years[edit]

A comic play Love in E-Flat (1967) had a short run on Broadway. None of his other later plays were hits: Watch the Birdie! (1969), Bunny (1970), We Interrupt This Program... (1975) and Lady Harry (1978).

Krasna spent many years living in Switzerland, but returned to Los Angeles before his death in 1984.

Personal life[edit]

From 1940 to 1950 Krasna was married to Ruth Frazee, with whom he had two children.[11] He married Al Jolson's widow Erle in 1951,[12] moving into the Palm Springs, California, home of Erle and Jolson.[13] They remained married until Krasna's death in 1984. He had six children.

Partial filmography[edit]

Scripts for unrealized films[edit]

  • Wonderful (circa 1936) – film for George Raft[3]
  • Hello, Russky! (mid-1950s) – a comedy about the Moiseyev Ballet with director René Clair[14]
  • Speak to Me of Love (1954)[15]
  • High Dive (circa 1959) – film for Jerry Wald about a water clown at a water carnival[16]
  • French Street (early 1960s)[17]

Theatre credits[edit]

Unproduced plays[edit]

Academy Awards[edit]

Won[edit]

Nominated[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Norman Krasna, 74, Is Dead; Playwright and Screenwriter". The New York Times. November 7, 1984. 
  2. ^ McGilligan, p. 213
  3. ^ a b Sheilah Graham (August 28, 1936). "Krasna Climbs To Top Of Film Ladder In Four Years". Los Angeles Times. 
  4. ^ "Playwright, screenwriter krasna dies". Los Angeles Times. November 7, 1984. 
  5. ^ "News Of The Screen". The New York Times. September 3, 1936. 
  6. ^ "Screen News: 'Dear Ruth' Is Bought For Reported $450,000". The New York Times. February 8, 1945. 
  7. ^ Edwin Schallert (August 16, 1950). "Film Men Wald and Krasna Tell Production Plans". Los Angeles Time. 
  8. ^ Thomas M. Pryor (May 3, 1952). "Jerry Wald Is Set To Buy Out Krasna: Completes Deal For Interest In Film Firm They Share – Company Stays At R.K.O.". The New York Times. 
  9. ^ McGilligan, p. 228
  10. ^ "Drama: Krasna Setting Deal With John Forsythe". Los Angeles Times. April 27, 1956. 
  11. ^ "Norman Krasna's Wife Gets $262,500 From Divorce Suit". Los Angeles Times. April 28, 1950. 
  12. ^ "Jolson's Widow Elopes With Producer". The News and Courier. 8 December 1951. Retrieved 13 November 2010. 
  13. ^ Meeks, Eric G. (2012). The Best Guide Ever to Palm Springs Celebrity Homes. Horatio Limburger Oglethorpe. p. 178. ISBN 978-1479328598. 
  14. ^ McGilligan, p. 224
  15. ^ Thomas M. Pryor (February 13, 1954). "Miss Tierney Set For Krasna Film: She Will Star In 'Speak To Me Of Love' At Columbia – Van Johnson Weighs Role". The New York Times. 
  16. ^ Thomas M. Pryor (July 4, 1958). "Krasna Writing Script For Fox: Preparing 'High Dive,' Film About Water Carnival – Goldwyn Rebuilding Set". The New York Times. 
  17. ^ a b Louis Calta (December 19, 1961). "Krasna's 'French Street' Listed For Production Next Season". The New York Times. 
  18. ^ "Small Miracle". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 2015-11-12. 
  19. ^ "Small Miracle". Playbill Vault. Playbill. Retrieved 2015-11-12. 
  20. ^ Atkinson, Brooks (September 27, 1934). "The Play: 'Small Miracle' Being a Slice of New York Life in a Theatre Lobby". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-11-16. 
  21. ^ Brooks Atkinson (November 5, 1941). "The Play". The New York Times. 
  22. ^ Walter Kerr (February 14, 1967). "Theater: Filtered Play in a Minor Key: 'Love in E Flat' Opens at Brooks Atkinson". The New York Times. 
  23. ^ Clive Barnes (April 2, 1975). "'We Interrupt,' Situation Thriller, Arrives". The New York Times. 
  24. ^ Joseph Catinellamontclair (March 28, 1982). "Krasna 'Comedy' Offered in Montclair". The New York Times. 
  25. ^ Pye, Michael; Krasna, Norman (February 19, 1978). "He's not perfect-but he did know Groucho". The Sunday Times. 
  26. ^ "Screen News Here And In Hollywood: Warners Buy 'Night Action' For Helmut Dantine – Fifth Ave. Playhouse To Reopen". The New York Times. October 27, 1943. 
  27. ^ Louis Calta (March 30, 1948). "Logan, Huston Set For New Musical: Director And Actor Are Slated For Berlin-Krasna Show, 'Stars On My Shoulders'". The New York Times. 
  • McGilligan, Patrick, "Norman Krasna: The Woolworth's Touch", Backstory: Interviews with Screenwriters of Hollywood's Golden Age, University of California Press,1986 p212-240

External links[edit]