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Mainwaring, Daniel

MAINWARING, Daniel


Writer. Pseudonyms: early 1930s and late 1940s—novelist (under pseudonym Geoffrey Homes); early 1940s through 1960s—screenwriter (under given name and Geoffrey Homes pseudonym). Nationality: American. Born: Oakland, California, 27 February 1902. Education: University of Fresno, California. Career: 1920s and early 1930s—private detective, newspaper reporter, San Francisco Chronicle, writer in Warner Bros. publicity department. Died: 1977.

Films as Writer:

1943

Secrets of the Underground (Morgan) (co-sc, as Geoffrey Homes)

1944

Dangerous Passage (Berke)

1945

Scared Stiff (McDonald) (co-sc); They Made Me a Killer (Thomas) (co-sc)

1946

Swamp Fire (Pine) (+ story); Hot Cargo (Landers); Tokyo Rose (Landers)

1947

Big Town (Thomas) (as Geoffrey Homes, also radio program); Out of the Past (Tourneur) (as Geoffrey Homes, also novel)

1948

Big Town Scandal (Thomas) (co-sc, as Geoffrey Homes, also radio program)

1949

Roughshod (Robson) (co-sc); The Big Steal (Siegel) (co-sc, as Geoffrey Homes)

1950

The Lawless (Losey) (as Geoffrey Homes, also novel); The Eagle and the Hawk (Foster) (co-sc)

1951

The Last Outpost (Foster) (co-sc, as Geoffrey Homes)

1952

This Woman Is Dangerous (Feist) (co-sc, as Geoffrey Homes); Bugles in the Afternoon (Rowland) (co-sc, as Geoffrey Homes)

1953

Powder River (King) (co-sc, as Geoffrey Homes); The Hitch-Hiker (Lupino) (co-sc, uncredited); Those Redheads from Seattle (Foster)

1954

The Desperado (Carr) (as Geoffrey Homes); Black Horse Canyon (Hibbs); Southwest Passage (Nazarro) (co-sc); Alaska Seas (Hopper) (co-sc, as Geoffrey Homes)

1955

Tormenta (Acebal/Guillermin) (co-sc + story, as Geoffrey Homes); The Phenix City Story (Karlson) (co-sc); A Bullet for Joey (Allen) (co-sc, as Geoffrey Homes); An Annapolis Story (Siegel) (co-sc, as Geoffrey Homes)

1956

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Siegel)

1957

Baby Face Nelson (Siegel) (co-sc)

1958

Space Master X-7 (Bernds) (co-sc); The Gun Runners (Siegel); Cole Younger, Gunfighter (Springsteen)

1960

Walk Like a Dragon (Clavell) (co-sc)

1961

The Minotaur (Amadio (co-sc); The George Raft Story (Newman) (co-sc); Atlantis, The Lost Continent (Pal); The Revolt of the Slaves (Malasomma) (co-sc)

1964

The Woman Who Wouldn't Die (Hessler)

1965

Convict Stage (Selander)



Other Films:

1941

No Hands on the Clock (McDonald) (novel)

1944

Crime by Night (Clemens) (novel)

1947

Big Town after Dark (Thomas) (radio program)

1951

The Tall Target (Mann) (story, as Geoffrey Homes); Roadblock (Daniels) (story, as Geoffrey Homes)

1984

Against All Odds (Hackford) (novel)


* * *

Considering that the film noir masterpiece Out of the Past and the prototypical close encounter of the third kind science-fiction thriller Invasion of the Body Snatchers continue to cast giant shadows over their respective genres and influence filmmakers to this day, it is ironic that the name of their screenwriter is all but forgotten. This may be because the former was written under a pseudonym and the latter under the writer's given name. This gives the impression that these works were scribed by different individuals. As a result, in most discussions of screenwriters who have left their mark on cinema history, Daniel Mainwaring—who left his mark with not just one but two seminal films—seldom comes up.

Mainwaring began his writing career as a newspaper reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, where he drew upon previous experience as a private detective to cover the city's crime and other beats for almost a decade before shifting to detective fiction during the golden age of the pulps. Influenced by the hard-boiled school of writers like Dashiell Hammett (who'd also used firsthand experience as a private eye to give his thrillers a sense of authenticity), Mainwaring published his first crime novel, One Against the Earth, in 1933 under his real name. Thereafter, the prolific author used the pseudonym Geoffrey Homes on all of his novels and most of his screenplays as well.

He produced a series of crime novels—boasting such pulpish titles The Doctor Died at Dusk, The Man Who Didn't Exist, and Then There Were Three—which featured the recurring character of reporterturned-private eye Robin Bishop. Mainwaring set Bishop apart from other fictional sleuths of the time by making him less hard-boiled and less susceptible to the charms of every femme fatale who comes because he has a wife. The author retired Bishop after five books to launch a new, more hard-boiled detective hero, Humphrey Campbell, in 1938. Campbell appeared in four books before being phased out by a final series character, the Mexican Indian sleuth Jose Manuel Madero, who debuted in The Street of the Crying Woman, then disappeared after one more outing.

Mainwaring also turned out several thrillers with no recurring character. The most notable of them was also his biggest bestseller and final book, Build My Gallows High. Published in 1946, it became, under the direction of Jacques Tourneur, the definitive film noir a year later as Out of the Past. It was remade in 1984 as Against All Odds. Despite the popularity they enjoyed in their day, none of Mainwaring's Geoffrey Homes books are currently in print, and thus ripe for rediscovery.

A stint as a publicist at Warner Brothers (where he met an aspiring director named Don Siegel who was then working as an editor in Warners montage department) gave Mainwaring an insider's look at the movies. He used his knowledge of Hollywood as background for his 1943 thriller The Hill of the Terrified Monk. Mainwaring's studio work as a publicist also opened doors for him as a screenwriter. He adapted his novel Forty Whacks to the screen for Warner Brothers as Crime by Night in 1944, but it was his crackling adaptation of Build My Gallows High into Out of the Past for RKO that enabled him to turn his back on novels and pursue a screenwriting career full time.

Mainwaring hooked up with his old pal Don Siegel (by then a director) on The Big Steal, a chase melodrama set in Mexico that was made by RKO to capitalize on the success of Out of the Past by re-teaming its two stars, Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer with the same writer. Mainwaring and Siegel collaborated four more times. Their biggest success together was Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a science-fiction parable about desensitization and loss of identity that made the word "pod" part of the American vocabulary. The archetypal alien invasion flick, it has been remade twice and ripped off countless times.

They also had a notable success as a team a year later with Baby Face Nelson, a top-notch period gangster film that earned Mickey Rooney the French equivalent of the Oscar for his incendiary performance in the title role. Of this now largely forgotten but also influential Siegel/Mainwaring collaboration, Siegel biographer Stuart M. Kaminsky writes, "It started a genre of psychological gangster films culminating in . . . Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde."

—John McCarty

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