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Ben Hecht: Fighting Words, Moving Pictures

Mar 1 — Mar 3, 2019

Jean-Luc Godard called him “a genius” who “invented 80 percent of what is used in Hollywood movies today.” As a screenwriter, Ben Hecht may have had a hand in as many as 140 films, from the 1927 silent film Underworld—for which he won the first Oscar for best original story—to classics like Scarface, Nothing Sacred, His Girl Friday, and Notorious. He added to the accomplishments of directors as varied as Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock, Ernst Lubitsch, Josef von Sternberg, Otto Preminger, William Wellman, King Vidor, Charles Vidor, William Wyler, Julien Duvivier, and much of the rest of the Hollywood pantheon.

This series celebrates the publication of Adina Hoffman’s absorbing new biography Ben Hecht: Fighting Words, Moving Pictures, which also reckons with Hecht in his many other modes: as big city reporter, celebrated playwright, taboo-busting novelist, political firebrand, and all-around wit. (According to David Denby in The New Yorker, the “superb book loads Hecht’s staggering contradictions into a compact but abounding 220 pages.”) Besides showcasing some of Hecht’s best-loved films, it also offers a rare chance to see two movies that Hecht and his frequent writing partner Charles MacArthur wrote, directed, and produced at the old Paramount Eastern Service Studios in Astoria—the site of today’s Museum of the Moving Image.

Organized by guest curator David Schwartz and Adina Hoffman