Moffat, Ivan 1918–2002
Moffat, Ivan 1918–2002
PERSONAL: Born February 18, 1918 in Havana, Cuba; died of a stroke July 4, 2002 in Los Angeles, CA; son of Curtis Moffat (a photographer) and Iris Tree (an actress and poet); married (divorced); married Natasha Sorokin (divorced); married Katharine Smith (divorced); partner of Caroline Blackwood; children: (first marriage) one daughter; (with Blackwood) Ivana Lowell; two sons. Education: Attended London School of Economics.
CAREER: Screenwriter and producer. Film work includes executive assistant, I Remember Mama, 1948; and associate producer, A Place in the Sun, 1951, and Shane, 1953. Military service: British Army, served during World War II.
AWARDS, HONORS: Academy Award nomination for best screenplay adaptation, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 1956, for Giant.
(With Sonya Levien) Bhowani Junction, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1956.
(With Harry Brown) D-Day the Sixth of June, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1956.
(With Fred Guiol) Giant, Warner Bros., 1956.
(With Dwight Taylor) Boy on a Dolphin, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1957.
The Wayward Bus, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1957.
(With Robert Rossen) They Came to Cordura, Columbia, 1959.
Tender Is the Night, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1962.
(With Ben Barzman) The Heroes of Telemark, Bruton Film Productions, 1965.
(Author of English-language dialogue) Hitler: The Last Ten Days, Tomorrow Entertainment, 1973.
(With Ernest Lehman and Kenneth Ross) Black Sunday, Paramount Pictures, 1977.
Florence Nightingale (television movie), National Broadcasting Company, 1985.
Writer for television miniseries Colditz, 1972.
SIDELIGHTS: British-born screenwriter Ivan Moffat is perhaps best remembered for his work on the feature film Giant, a classic from 1956 that helped propel James Dean to icon status after the actor's 1955 death in a car accident. Moffat began his career as a filmmaker in the British Army during World War II, where part of his duties involved documenting the activities of the Sixth Army during the liberation of Dachau. While in the military, Moffat met American director George Stevens, who helped the British writer find work in Hollywood. Moffat enjoyed a lengthy and successful career in Tinsel Town, although that career was marred by diminished fortunes in later life. Moffat also worked as a Hollywood producer, serving as associate producer on the George Stevens-directed films A Place in the Sun, released in 1951, and Shane, starring Alan Ladd and released in 1953.
Moffat's personal lineage had strong connections to the visual and performing arts. His father, Curtis Moffat, was a photographer, and his mother, Iris Tree, was a celebrated actress and poet. He was also the great-nephew of noted critic and writer Max Beerbohm and grandson of Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, a prominent English actor and founder of the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
Though known as a screenwriter, Moffat enjoyed a lifestyle that rivaled that of any Hollywood star of the time. A child of aristocratic upbringing, he was accustomed to wealth and privilege. "Never having a great incentive to work, he always retained an air of the dilettante, and ultimately his 'sweet life' became more interesting than his career," explained Ronald Bergan in the Manchester Guardian. Moffat became known as a socialite with a steady string of female companions and was a perpetual presence at the most important dinner parties and social events of Hollywood's elite. Among his many affairs, one with Caroline Blackwood produced a daughter, Ivana Lowell—Moffat did not know he was the girl's father until 1998, and the two reconciled shortly before his death in 2002.
After Moffat's death, friend and editor Gavin Lambert rescued the late writer's autobiographical work-in-progress, as well as many letters and audiotapes, and produced The Ivan Moffat File: Life among the Beautiful and Damned in London, Paris, New York, and Hollywood. The book contains the full contents of Moffat's incomplete and unpublished memoir, plus copies of letters and narrative fragments; transcripts of tapes in which Moffat recalled his encounters with Hollywood luminaries such as Preston Sturges, Aldous Huxley, Charlie Chaplin, and David O. Selznick; and a detailed foreword and afterword by Lambert. Moffat's autobiographical piece tells of his privileged upbringing and military service, and "what Moffat didn't live to tell has been brilliantly reconstructed" by Gavin in a "part memoir and part detective story … that's entirely fascinating," noted James Reginato in W.
"Lambert has here assembled what can only be called a 'curious volume,' at once a homage to Moffat and a look at what life might have been like if you were English, working in Hollywood from 1950 on, and neither a genius nor a star," observed Carolyn See, reviewing The Ivan Moffat File for the Washington Post Book World. M. C. Duhig, writing in Library Journal, called the book "a captivating if bittersweet look at an enigmatic but ultimately endearing character." A Publishers Weekly critic commented favorably on Moffat's "beautiful, polished style," his "graceful prose," and his "probing characterizations of Hollywood luminaries."
Toward the end of his life, Moffat lived an impoverished life in a small Beverly Hills apartment. Still, a coterie of Hollywood friends remained loyal, and he continued to receive invitations to important dinner parties, Reginato noted. "His sad end notwithstanding, Lambert says Moffat had a wonderful life," remarked Reginato. "Even in the face of advancing age and diminished job offers (a common Hollywood ending), Moffat maintained his wit and charm." Moffat died in 2002 after suffering a stroke.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Moffat, Ivan, The Ivan Moffat File: Life among the Beautiful and Damned in London, Paris, New York, and Hollywood, edited by Gavin Lambert, Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2004, review of The Ivan Moffat File, p. 79.
Library Journal, September 15, 2004, M. C. Duhig, review of The Ivan Moffat File, p. 60.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, October 10, 2004, Richard Schickel, "Film on Paper: All the Raw Materials for a Life in the Spotlight," p. 2.
Publishers Weekly, August 23, 2004, review of The Ivan Moffat File, p. 44.
W, November, 2004, James Reginato, "Hollywood Confidential: A Back-Lot Insider Digs up the Secrets of Legendary Screenwriter and Man-about-Town Ivan Moffat," p. 262.
Washington Post Book World, October 29, 2004, Carolyn See, "A Brit Dandy in Tinseltown," p. C3.
AmericanLegends.com, http://www.americanlegends.com (April 21, 2005), "Ivan Moffat: The Making of Giant" (interview).
Boston Globe, July 12, 2002, p. B5.
Guardian (Manchester, England), July 22, 2002, p. 16.
Variety, July 22, 2002, p. 38.