Charles MacArthur

Charles Gordon MacArthur (November 5, 1895 – April 21, 1956) was an American playwright, screenwriter and 1935 winner of the Academy Award for Best Story.

Charles MacArthur
Charles Gordon MacArthur

November 5, 1895
DiedApril 21, 1956 (aged 60)
OccupationScreenwriter, playwright
Helen Hayes (m. 1928)
Children2, including James MacArthur
RelativesJohn D. MacArthur (brother)
J. Roderick MacArthur (nephew)


Charles MacArthur was the sixth of seven children born to stern evangelist William Telfer MacArthur and Georgiana Welsted MacArthur.[1] He early developed a passion for reading. Declining to follow his father into ministry, he moved to the Midwest and soon became a successful reporter in Chicago, working for the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Daily News. MacArthur joined the United States Army for World War I, and served in France as a private assigned to Battery F, 149th Field Artillery, a unit of the 42nd Division.[2] He recounted his wartime experience in 1919's A Bug's-Eye View of the War.[3] After the war, he wrote several short stories, two of which, "Hang It All" (1921) and "Rope" (1923), were published in H.L. Mencken's The Smart Set magazine.[1] Eventually he settled in New York City, where he turned to playwriting.

MacArthur is best known for his plays in collaboration with Ben Hecht, Ladies and Gentlemen (filmed as Perfect Strangers), Twentieth Century and the frequently filmed The Front Page, which was based in part on MacArthur's experiences at the City News Bureau of Chicago. MacArthur also co-wrote, with Edward Sheldon, the play Lulu Belle, which was staged in 1926 by David Belasco.

MacArthur was friends with members of the Algonquin Round Table. He shared an apartment with Robert Benchley and had an affair with Dorothy Parker.

His second marriage was to the stage and screen actress Helen Hayes, from 1928 until his death. They lived in Nyack, New York. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Mary, who died of polio in 1949 at the age of 19. The shock of her death hastened MacArthur's own, according to those who knew him.

Their adopted son, James MacArthur, was also an actor, best known for playing Danny Williams on the American television series Hawaii Five-O.

His brother, John D. MacArthur, was an insurance-company owner and executive, and founded the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the benefactor of the MacArthur Fellowships.

Awards and nominations

Academy Award for Best Writing, Original Story - The Scoundrel (shared with Ben Hecht) (1936)

In 1983, MacArthur was posthumously inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.[4]

Film portrayal

MacArthur was portrayed by Matthew Broderick in the 1994 film Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle.[5]

Selected works




  1. ^ a b "A Salute to Charles Gordon MacArthur". James Macarthur Official Website. 2004.
  2. ^ "Reporter Writes View of the War". The Fourth Estate. New York, NY. December 20, 1919. p. 25.
  3. ^ MacArthur, Charles G. (1919). A Bug's-Eye View of the War. New York, NY: 149th Field Artillery Regiment. p. title.
  4. ^ "Theater Hall of Fame Gets 10 New Members". The New York Times. May 10, 1983.
  5. ^ Internet Movie Database entry for Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle

External links

Barbary Coast (film)

Barbary Coast is a 1935 American historical drama film directed by Howard Hawks. Shot in black-and-white and set in San Francisco during the Gold Rush era, the film combines elements of crime, Western, melodrama and adventure genres, features a wide range of actors, from good-guy Joel McCrea to bad-boy Edward G. Robinson, and stars Miriam Hopkins in the leading role as Mary 'Swan' Rutledge. In an early, uncredited appearance, David Niven can be spotted playing a drunken sailor being thrown out of a bar.

Billy the Kid (1930 film)

Billy the Kid is a 1930 American pre-Code film directed in widescreen by King Vidor about the relationship between frontier outlaw Billy the Kid (Johnny Mack Brown, billed as "John Mack Brown") and Pat Garrett (Wallace Beery), the man who later killed him.

Crime Without Passion

Crime Without Passion is a 1934 American drama film directed by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, starring Claude Rains. It is the first of four pictures written, produced and directed by Hecht and MacArthur for Paramount Pictures. Sixty to seventy percent of the film was directed by cinematographer Lee Garmes.The plot centers around a clever and suave but unscrupulous and dishonest lawyer, Lee Gentry (Rains) who boasts that he "lives by lies". His attempts to finish his affair with a clinging, besotted cabaret artist do not go according to plan.

I Take This Woman (1940 film)

I Take This Woman is a 1940 American drama film directed by W. S. Van Dyke and starring Spencer Tracy and Hedy Lamarr. Based on the short story "A New York Cinderella" by Charles MacArthur, the film is about a young woman who attempted suicide in reaction to a failed love affair. The doctor who marries her attempts to get her to love him by abandoning his clinic services to the poor to become a physician to the rich so he can pay for her expensive lifestyle.

Jumbo (musical)

Jumbo is a musical produced by Billy Rose, with music and lyrics by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart and book by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur.

Ladies and Gentlemen (play)

Ladies and Gentlemen is a play by Charles MacArthur and Ben Hecht. The courtroom drama, inspired by a Hungarian play Twelve in a Box by Ladislaus Bush-Fekete, centers on the relationship that develops between two sequestered jurors, Miss Scott and Mr. Campbell, during a lengthy murder trial.

The play premiered in Santa Barbara, then ran for two weeks each in San Francisco and Los Angeles, with Helen Hayes and Herbert Marshall in the lead roles. It marked Hayes' return to the stage three years after her lengthy run in Victoria Regina.The Broadway production was produced by Gilbert Miller and co-directed by MacArthur and Lewis Allen. The scenic design was by Boris Aronson. It opened at the Martin Beck Theatre on October 17, 1939 and closed on January 13, 1940 after running for 105 performances.

The play was filmed as Perfect Strangers in 1950.

New Adventures of Get Rich Quick Wallingford

New Adventures of Get Rich Quick Wallingford is a 1931 American pre-Code crime / romantic comedy film directed by Sam Wood and starring William Haines as a con artist and Jimmy Durante as his pickpocket buddy. The film is based on a series of stories by George Randolph Chester published in Cosmopolitan.

Paid (1930 film)

Paid is a 1930 American pre-Code drama film starring Joan Crawford, Robert Armstrong, and Kent Douglass in a story about a wrongly accused ex-convict who seeks revenge on those who sent her to prison using a scam called the "Heart Balm Racket".

The film was adapted by Lucien Hubbard and Charles MacArthur from the play, Within the Law by Bayard Veiller (1912) and was the fourth film version of the play. The film was directed and produced by Sam Wood.

Perfect Strangers (1950 film)

Perfect Strangers is a 1950 American comedy-drama film directed by Bretaigne Windust. The screenplay for the Warner Bros. release by Edith Sommer was based on an adaptation of the 1939 Ben Hecht-Charles MacArthur play Ladies and Gentlemen by George Oppenheimer. This 1939 play was based on an earlier Hungarian play, Twelve in a Box written by Lazlo Bush-Fekete.

Rasputin and the Empress

Rasputin and the Empress is a 1932 American pre-Code film about Imperial Russia starring the Barrymore siblings (John, as "Prince Chegodieff"; Ethel, as Czarina Alexandra; and Lionel Barrymore, as Grigori Rasputin). It is the only film in which all three siblings appear together.The film's inaccurate portrayal of Prince Felix Yusupov and his wife Princess Irina (renamed "Prince Chegodieff" and "Princess Natasha") resulted in an historically significant lawsuit against MGM and gave rise to the "all persons fictitious disclaimer", which has since become standard in Hollywood works of fiction.

The Front Page

The Front Page is a hit Broadway comedy about tabloid newspaper reporters on the police beat. Written by former Chicago reporters Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, it was first produced in 1928 and has been adapted for the cinema several times.

The Girl Said No (1930 film)

The Girl Said No is a 1930 pre-Code American romantic comedy film starring William Haines and Leila Hyams. In the film, a young college graduate goes to extreme lengths to win the girl he loves.

The Scoundrel (1935 film)

The Scoundrel is a 1935 drama film directed by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, and starring Noël Coward, Julie Haydon, Stanley Ridges, Rosita Moreno, and Lionel Stander. It was Coward's film debut, aside from a bit role in a silent film. It deals with supernatural redemption in a way rather similar to Ferenc Molnár's Liliom, and drew inspiration from the life of publisher Horace Liveright, who had died in September 1933.

The Sin of Madelon Claudet

The Sin of Madelon Claudet is a 1931 American pre-Code drama film directed by Edgar Selwyn and starring Helen Hayes. The screenplay by Charles MacArthur and Ben Hecht was adapted from the play The Lullaby by Edward Knoblock. It tells the story of a wrongly imprisoned woman who turns to theft and prostitution in order to support her son.

The Unholy Garden

The Unholy Garden is a 1931 American pre-Code drama film directed by George Fitzmaurice and starring Ronald Colman and Fay Wray. It was based on a story by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur.

Topaze (1933 American film)

Topaze is a 1933 American pre-Code film directed by D'Abbadie D'Arrast and starring John Barrymore and Myrna Loy. It was based on the French play of the same name by Marcel Pagnol. Another film version of Topaze, this one made in the original French was also released that year, starring Louis Jouvet in the title role. Subsequently, Pagnol himself directed another film titles Topaze in 1936.

Twentieth Century (play)

For the 1934 film of the same name, see Twentieth Century (film).Twentieth Century is a play by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur based on the unproduced play Napoleon of Broadway by Charles B. Millholland, inspired by his experience working for the eccentric Broadway impresario David Belasco.

Way for a Sailor

Way for a Sailor is a 1930 American Pre-Code film starring John Gilbert. The supporting cast includes Wallace Beery, Jim Tully, Leila Hyams, and Polly Moran. The film was directed by Sam Wood, who insisted on no screen credit. The film is reputed to be so bad that the studio might have used it to sabotage leading man Gilbert's career in the sound era due to animosity from Louis B. Mayer. MGM produced a Spanish language version of this film, Love in Every Port, starring Jose Crespo and Conchita Montenegro.

Wuthering Heights (1939 film)

Wuthering Heights is a 1939 American drama romance film directed by William Wyler and produced by Samuel Goldwyn. It is based on the novel, Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. The film depicts only sixteen of the novel's thirty-four chapters, eliminating the second generation of characters. The novel was adapted for the screen by Charles MacArthur, Ben Hecht and John Huston. The film won the 1939 New York Film Critics Award for Best Film. It earned nominations for eight Academy Awards, including for Best Picture and Best Actor in what many consider Hollywood's greatest single year. The 1940 Academy Award for Best Cinematography, black-and-white category, was awarded to Gregg Toland for his work. Nominated for original score (but losing to The Wizard of Oz) was the prolific film composer, Alfred Newman, whose poignant "Cathy's Theme" does so much "to maintain its life as a masterpiece of romantic filmmaking."It was largely filmed in Thousand Oaks, California, with scenes shot in Wildwood Regional Park and at the current site of California Lutheran University.In 2007, Wuthering Heights was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

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