Taradash, Daniel

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Writer. Nationality: American. Born: Louisville, Kentucky, 29 January 1913. Education: Attended Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, B.A. 1933; Harvard Law School, LL.B. 1936. Military Service: 1941–46—served in the United States Army in the infantry (captain), and as a writer in the Signal Corps: scripts for the Fighting Men series. Family: Married Madeleine Forbes, 1944; three children. Career: 1939—first film as writer, Golden Boy: contract with Columbia; 1977–79—President, Writers Guild of America, West, 1970–73—President, Motion Picture Academy. Awards: Academy Award and Writers Guild Award for From Here to Eternity, 1953; Writers Guild Valentine Davies Award, 1970; Morgan Cox Award, 1988; Edmund H. North Award, 1991. Address: 9140 Hazen Drive, Beverly Hills, California 90210, U.S.A.

Films as Writer:


Golden Boy (Mamoulian); For Love or Money (Rogell)


A Little Bit of Heaven (Marton)


The Noose Hangs High (Barton)


Knock on Any Door (Ray)


Rancho Notorious (F. Lang); Don't Bother to Knock (Baker)


From Here to Eternity (Zinnemann)


Desiree (Koster)


Picnic (Logan)


Storm Center (+ d)


Bell, Book, and Candle (Quine)


Saboteur: Code Name Morituri (Morituri) (Wicki)


Hawaii (Hill)


Castle Keep (Pollack)


Doctors' Wives (Schaeffer)


The Other Side of Midnight (Jarrott)


Bogie (V. Sherman—for TV)


By TARADASH: articles—

"Into Another World," in Films and Filming (London), no. 8, 1959.

In Blueprint in Babylon, by J. D. Marshall, Los Angeles, 1978.

American Film (Washington, D.C.), May 1979.

Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury, Maryland), vol. 29, no. 1, January 1991.

On TARADASH: articles—

Présence du Cinéma (Paris), June 1962.

Kino Lehti (Helsinki), no. 7, 1972.

Boyer, Jay, in American Screenwriters, 2nd series, edited by Randall Clark, Detroit, Michigan, 1986.

American Film (Washington, D.C), August 1990.

Literature/Film Quarterly (Salisbury), vol. 19, no. 1, January 1991.

The Journal: Writers Guild of America, West, (Los Angeles), April 1996.

* * *

Daniel Taradash's career more often suggests the lawyer he was intended to become before he started writing, than the high-priced screenwriting technician he later became. Yet the law was the ambition of his father rather than of Taradash himself, and after graduating Taradash bargained a year in New York out of him before taking up the bar. Rouben Mamoulian, looking for someone to rewrite Clifford Odets' Golden Boy, picked Taradash and Lewis Maltzer out of the same playwriting course, and Taradash found himself at Columbia. After war service, he went back to become one of the few screenwriters to endure and tame the autocratic Harry Cohn.

Knock on Any Door for Bogart under Nicholas Ray's quirky direction helped build Taradash's reputation for soothing tempers and getting on with the unruly—he same skills that would make him sought after for countless committees of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Writers' Guild. He tried his skills with Broadway producer Jed Harris, but though his play Red Gloves ran more than 100 performances, Taradash could never endure the tyrannical producer ("I loathed Jed Harris. He was a terrible sadist"), and fled back to Hollywood and the equally feared Fritz Lang. However Rancho Notorious, a high baroque Westem with Dietrich's Altar Keene queering it in tight trousers over the outlaw hideout Chuckaluck until she succumbs to the improbable charms of a young Arthur Kennedy, became a backdoor success. Also Langian in tone, Don't Bother to Knock, the high-point of British director Roy Ward Baker's brief Hollywood career, with Marilyn Monroe as a homicidal babysitter, won Taradash praise.

Taradash's triumph was turning From Here to Eternity into an acceptable screenplay. Having paid $85,000 for James Jones's erotic and profane novel of Pearl Harbour, Cohn was convinced he'd wasted his money. When Taradash asked if he could work on the adaptation at home, Cohn snapped, "With this book, you can write it in a whorehouse." But Taradash managed to find a censor-proof story in the bestseller without doing too much violence to its text. After seeing the film, which won the scriptwriter an Oscar, Jones told the producer, "Please tell Dan Taradash how much I liked it."

Thereafter, Taradash mostly occupied himself condensing fat bestsellers and "opening up" hit Broadway plays. He admitted wintry Manhattan light and air into John van Druten's witchcraft comedy Bell, Book and Candle, toned down the rural eroticism of William Inge's Picnic (as well as inserting the picnic which didn't appear in the original) and, in Desirée, reduced Annemarie Selinko's epic of Napoleon's love life to managable proportions for Marlon Brando. Noël Coward had planned to direct. Instead journeyman Henry Koster took over, and Brando, piqued that he was not the centre of the story, sulked his way through his lines.

In 1956, Taradash belatedly pinned his liberal heart to his sleeve when he made a failed stab at direction with Storm Center, a moral fable about a smalltown librarian defying local book-bumers and having the library torched for her trouble. The script had been kicking around for years. Mary Pickford had intended to star after decades of nonactivity, but dropped out. So did Irene Dunne, and Bette Davis took the part. Four years after High Noon, the lesson was no longer topical, and even those critics inclined to give Taradash the benefit of the doubt on the basis of his work with Lang and Ray were unimpressed. He spent 1960 and 1961 trying to adapt James Michener's sprawling Hawaii. His solution was to make not one film of the book but two, and sell tickets by the pair, but director Fred Zinnemann could never find funds for such a giant project. The script passed to Dalton Trumbo, the direction to George Roy Hill, and Hawaii, as one film, flopped.

Taradash's later credits were mostly European. Brando persuaded him to write The Saboteur: Codename Morituri, a rambling story of a World War II German blockade runner being chased all over the ocean by the allies with Brando as an undercover anti-Nazi on board. Bernhard Wicki's direction snuffed out what quality Brando's rewrites and improvisations left in the script. Castle Keep, a fable of Americans who stumble into the medieval atmosphere of a remote French castle, was a cheap small picture inflated to an $8 million dud when Burt Lancaster became involved.

Taradash did repair work on Edward Dmytryk's western Alvarez Kelly. He was fired from Sidney Sheldon's The Other Side of Midnight, though his signature remains on a script which one French critic praised as "delirant," perhaps out of loyalty to a film that tried, without success, to launch Marie-France Pisier as an international star. Taradash's great disappointment is that he failed to see his adaptation of Andersonville produced. Mackinlay Kantor's novel of the Civil War prison camp where 15,000 troops died seemed to offer the combination of epic scope and liberal politics which brought out the best in him, but no Hollywood studio would touch it. He remains a screenwriter never given his due by the film factory system he supported so vigorously.

—John Baxter