Directors Classic Screenwriters: Another Literate New Tournament

Agee Bassett

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I actually thought about starting this tournament quite awhile back (the title is obviously a riff on Scott Weinberg's modern screenwriters tourney), but first one thing then another came up. This tourney idea began with 64 entrees, but it became a case of too many weak entrees vs. noticably stronger competition. Anyway, here it is. Enjoy!



Welcome to my Classic Screenwriters Tournament.

It’s about time we gave those old-time dramatists, humorists, wordsmiths and scribes their due, I think. Those poets of the silver screen who gave us plots, dialogue, and structure which would prove grist for ten thousand imitators.

Divining final script authorship/contribution can, of course, be a troublesome thing. While many of the selected scribes enjoyed the privilege of reserving sole credit or directing their own scripts, several others seldom, if ever, got anything resembling an unfiltered idea into a final shooting script. In such cases where writers of this ilk are on the floor, I ask that you put whatever knowledge you have of individual authors—their outlook and “signature”—and conditions under which they labored, to use. Failing that—for the sake of this tourney—the filmed product is always to remain the ultimate consideration when casting your vote; specific contribution, less governing. In other words, push comes to shove, vote for the writer whose name was attached to the greatest number of superior scripts. (Examples are provided appending each author’s credit.)

Moreover, writing teams sometimes develop such an intimate rapport of ideas that they seem the conduit of a single sensibility; and occasionally become singularly co-dependent. In such instances, teams will be considered as single “authors”.

Match-ups are selected purely at random. Vote is, of course, open to everyone. If you have any questions or complaints, don’t hesitate to consider which of the two I’m more likely to answer cordially.


Just to clear up any ambiguity which may remain, please vote for the writer you deem to be superior.


Sorry, no nominations are permitted. All entrees have been preselected.
  • Robert Bolt (Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. Zhivago, A Man for All Seasons, Ryan’s Daughter, The Mission)
    Richard Brooks (The Killers, Brute Force, Key Largo, Elmer Gantry, Sweet Bird of Youth, The Professionals, In Cold Blood, Bite the Bullet)
    Sidney Buchman (Lost Horizon, The Awful Truth, Holiday, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Here Comes Mr. Jordan, The Talk of the Town, Sahara, The Group)
    Paddy Chayefsky (Marty, The Bachelor Party, The Goddess, The Americanization of Emily, The Hospital, Network)
    Betty Comden & Adolph Green (On the Town, Singin’ in the Rain, The Band Wagon, It’s Always Fair Weather, Auntie Mame)
    Julius J. Epstein & Philip G. Epstein (The Man Who Came to Dinner, Casablanca, Mr. Skeffington, Arsenic and Old Lace)
    William Faulkner (To Have and Have Not, Mildred Pierce, The Southerner, The Big Sleep, Land of the Pharaohs)
    Carl Foreman (Champion, Home of the Brave, The Men, High Noon, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Guns of Navarone)
    Jules Furthman (Morocco, Shanghai Express, Bombshell, Only Angels Have Wings, To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, Nightmare Alley)
    Frances Goodrich & Albert Hackett (The Thin Man, After the Thin Man, It’s a Wonderful Life, Father of the Bride, The Diary of Anne Frank)
    Graham Greene (Brighton Rock, The Fallen Idol, The Third Man, Saint Joan)
    Ben Hecht (Scarface, Design for Living, Twentieth Century, Crime Without Passion, Nothing Sacred, Gunga Din, Wuthering Heights, Spellbound, Notorious)
    John Huston (High Sierra, The Maltese Falcon, The Killers, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Key Largo, The Asphalt Jungle, Moulin Rouge, Beat the Devil)
    Bert Kalmar & Harry Ruby (Animal Crackers, Horse Feathers, Duck Soup)
    Ernest Lehman (Sabrina, Sweet Smell of Success, North by Northwest, West Side Story, The Sound of Music, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?)
    Herman Mankiewicz (Laughter, Dinner at Eight, Citizen Kane, The Pride of the Yankees)
    Joseph L. Mankiewicz (A Letter to Three Wives, No Way Out, All About Eve, People Will Talk, The Quiet American)
    Dudley Nichols (The Informer, Bringing Up Baby, Stagecoach, The Long Voyage Home, For Whom the Bell Tolls, And Then There Were None)
    Abraham Polonsky (Body and Soul, Force of Evil, Odds Against Tomorrow, Tell Them Willie Boy is Here)
    Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger (49th Parallel, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, I Know Where I’m Going!, A Matter of Life and Death, Black Narcissus, The Red Shoes)
    Samson Raphaelson (One Hour With You, Trouble in Paradise, The Shop Around the Corner, Suspicion, Heaven Can Wait)
    Jean Renoir (Boudu Saved from Drowning, Grand Illusion, La Bete Humaine, The Rules of the Game, The River)
    Robert Riskin (Lady for a Day, It Happened One Night, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Lost Horizon, You Can’t Take it With You, Meet John Doe)
    Robert Rossen (They Won’t Forget, The Roaring Twenties, The Sea Wolf, All the King’s Men, The Hustler)
    Budd Schulberg (Nothing Sacred, On the Waterfront, A Face in the Crowd)
    Rod Serling (Patterns, Requiem for a Heavyweight, Seven Days in May, Planet of the Apes)
    R.C. Sherriff (The Old Dark House, The Invisible Man, The Four Feathers, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Odd Man Out, Quartet)
    Donald Ogden Stewart (Laughter, Dinner at Eight, Holiday, Love Affair, The Philadelphia Story)
    Preston Sturges (The Power and the Glory, Easy Living, The Great McGinty, The Lady Eve, Sullivan’s Travels, The Palm Beach Story, The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, Hail the Conquering Hero)
    Orson Welles (Citizen Kane, The Magnificent Ambersons, Journey into Fear, The Lady from Shanghai, Touch of Evil, Chimes at Midnight)
    Billy Wilder (Ninotchka, Double Indemnity, The Lost Weekend, Sunset Blvd., The Big Carnival, Stalag 17, Some Like it Hot, The Apartment, One, Two, Three)
    Michael Wilson (A Place in the Sun, Salt of the Earth, Friendly Persuasion, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, Planet of the Apes)


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ROUND 1; Bracket 1:


Rod Serling (Patterns, Requiem for a Heavyweight, Seven Days in May, Planet of the Apes)

vs.

Julius J. Epstein & Philip G. Epstein (The Man Who Came to Dinner, Casablanca, Mr. Skeffington, Arsenic and Old Lace)



ROUND 1; Bracket 2:

Carl Foreman (Champion, Home of the Brave, The Men, High Noon, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Guns of Navarone)

vs.

Betty Comden & Adolph Green (On the Town, Singin’ in the Rain, The Band Wagon, It’s Always Fair Weather, Auntie Mame)


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george kaplan

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I'll play, but I am disappointed by the absence of John Michael Hayes
, whom I certainly would have nominated.

Rod Serling - tough

Carl Foreman
 

Agee Bassett

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george, he unfortunately was eliminated in my paring down. One of the last ones, in fact. His script contributions to many Hitchcock films (especially Rear Window) are more than notable.
 

Walter Kittel

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Julius J. Epstein & Philip G. Epstein - tough choice.
Betty Comden & Adolph Green.

- Walter.
 

Jim_K

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It's hard to judge these when you haven't actually read the scripts. Let alone knowing how often these things are modified by the film-makers.

Nevertheless this should be interesting.

Rod Serling
Carl Foreman
 

Brook K

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The Epsteins
Betty Comden & Adolph Green

No Kurosawa and Shinobu Hashimoto??
 

Arman

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Julius J. Epstein & Philip G. Epstein
Carl Foreman
 

Lew Crippen

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Julius J. Epstein & Philip G. Epstein—I agree with George and Walter—tough choice right off the bat.

Betty Comden & Adolph Green—easier than I thought at first. Singin’ in the Rain is the decider.
 

Agee Bassett

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Good to be back, Lew. Let's see if I can get an un-life for a bit here and stick around for awhile.


Brook: Kurosawa and Hashimoto were, like John Michael Hayes, one of the last I pared from my list. If I could run a tournament with about 42 entrees, that would be perfect.
 

Lew Crippen

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Seed your 4--at least the lowest 20 (half done already, as you excluded 10).

The top 22 make the tournament automatically.

Post 10 head-to-head matches with the bottom 20 (you now have pared the 20 to 10).

Add the winning 10 back to the predetermined list of 22.

32 writers to be considered.
 

Agee Bassett

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Thanks, Lew. I'll keep that in mind for my next tourney if I run up against a similar problem. Don't know why I didn't think of it in the first place. (Math-deficiency might have something to do with it.
)

So far, the Epstein Bros. lead Rod Serling in the first bracket, 5-3; and Carl Foreman leads Comden & Green in the second bracket, also 5-3. Brackets will run until later tonight.
 

Agee Bassett

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My votes:

Julius J. Epstein & Philip G. Epstein
Betty Comden & Adolph Green


Julius J. Epstein & Philip G. Epstein wins bracket 1, 6-4.
Carl Foreman takes bracket 2, also by a score of 6-4.


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ROUND 1; Bracket 3:


Robert Riskin (Lady for a Day, It Happened One Night, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Lost Horizon, You Can’t Take it With You, Meet John Doe)

vs.

Billy Wilder (Ninotchka, Double Indemnity, The Lost Weekend, Sunset Blvd., The Big Carnival, Stalag 17, Some Like it Hot, The Apartment, One, Two, Three)



ROUND 1; Bracket 4:

Graham Greene (Brighton Rock, The Fallen Idol, The Third Man, Saint Joan)

vs.

Preston Sturges (The Power and the Glory, Easy Living, The Great McGinty, The Lady Eve, Sullivan’s Travels, The Palm Beach Story, The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, Hail the Conquering Hero)


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george kaplan

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Billy Wilder

Preston Sturges
 

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