Howard Koch (screenwriter)

Howard Koch (screenwriter)

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Howard E. Koch was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 playwright
Playwright
A playwright, also called a dramatist, is a person who writes plays.The term is not a variant spelling of "playwrite", but something quite distinct: the word wright is an archaic English term for a craftsman or builder...

 and screenwriter
Screenwriter
Screenwriters or scriptwriters or scenario writers are people who write/create the short or feature-length screenplays from which mass media such as films, television programs, Comics or video games are based.-Profession:...

 who was blacklisted
Hollywood blacklist
The Hollywood blacklist—as the broader entertainment industry blacklist is generally known—was the mid-twentieth-century list of screenwriters, actors, directors, musicians, and other U.S. entertainment professionals who were denied employment in the field because of their political beliefs or...

 by the Hollywood movie studio
Movie studio
A movie studio is a term used to describe a major entertainment company or production company that has its own privately owned studio facility or facilities that are used to film movies...

 bosses in the 1950s.

Early Years


Born in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

, New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

, Koch grew up in Kingston, New York and was a graduate of St. Stephen's College (later renamed Bard College
Bard College
Bard College, founded in 1860 as "St. Stephen's College", is a small four-year liberal arts college located in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.-Location:...

) and Columbia Law School
Columbia Law School
Columbia Law School, founded in 1858, is one of the oldest and most prestigious law schools in the United States. A member of the Ivy League, Columbia Law School is one of the professional graduate schools of Columbia University in New York City. It offers the J.D., LL.M., and J.S.D. degrees in...

.

Writing for stage and radio


While practicing law in Hartsdale, New York
Hartsdale, New York
Hartsdale is a hamlet and a census-designated place located in the town of Greenburgh, Westchester County, New York. The population was 5,293 at the 2010 census.-Geography:Hartsdale is located at ....

, he began to write plays. Great Scott (1929), Give Us This Day (1933), and In Time to Come (1941) were produced on Broadway
Broadway theatre
Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

.

His radio work in the 1930s as a writer for the CBS Mercury Theater of the Air included the Orson Welles
Orson Welles
George Orson Welles , best known as Orson Welles, was an American film director, actor, theatre director, screenwriter, and producer, who worked extensively in film, theatre, television and radio...

 radio drama
Radio drama
Radio drama is a dramatized, purely acoustic performance, broadcast on radio or published on audio media, such as tape or CD. With no visual component, radio drama depends on dialogue, music and sound effects to help the listener imagine the characters and story...

 The War of the Worlds
The War of the Worlds (radio)
The War of the Worlds was an episode of the American radio drama anthology series Mercury Theatre on the Air. It was performed as a Halloween episode of the series on October 30, 1938, and aired over the Columbia Broadcasting System radio network. Directed and narrated by actor and future filmmaker...

(1938), which caused nationwide panic among some listeners for its documentary-like portrayal of an invasion of spaceships from Mars. Koch later wrote a play about the panic, Invasion From Mars, which was later adapted into the 1975 TV movie, The Night That Panicked America
The Night That Panicked America
The Night That Panicked America is an American made-for-television movie that was originally broadcast on the ABC network on October 31, 1975. The movie dramatizes events surrounding Orson Welles' famous - and infamous - War of the Worlds radio broadcast The Night That Panicked America is an...

, in which actor Joshua Bryant plays Koch.

Screenwriting and blacklisting


Koch began writing for Hollywood studios. His first accepted screenplay was made into a 1940 film. Koch contributed to the popular film Casablanca
Casablanca (film)
Casablanca is a 1942 American romantic drama film directed by Michael Curtiz, starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Paul Henreid, and featuring Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre and Dooley Wilson. Set during World War II, it focuses on a man torn between, in...

with Humphrey Bogart
Humphrey Bogart
Humphrey DeForest Bogart was an American actor. He is widely regarded as a cultural icon.The American Film Institute ranked Bogart as the greatest male star in the history of American cinema....

, which he co-scripted with writers Julius and Philip Epstein in 1942, and for which he received an Academy Award in 1944. He also wrote Shining Victory
Shining Victory
Shining Victory is a 1941 film based on the play, Jupiter Laughs, by A. J. Cronin. It stars James Stephenson, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Donald Crisp, and Barbara O'Neil, and it was the first film directed by Irving Rapper. Bette Davis makes a brief cameo appearance as a nurse in the film.-Plot...

(1941), and Letter from an Unknown Woman
Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948 film)
Letter from an Unknown Woman is a film directed by Max Ophüls. It was based on the novella of the same name, which was written by Stefan Zweig...

(1948), his favorite screenplay.

In 1943, at the request of Jack Warner
Jack Warner
Jack Leonard "J. L." Warner , born Jacob Warner in London, Ontario, was a Canadian American film executive who was the president and driving force behind the Warner Bros. Studios in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California...

 of Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., also known as Warner Bros. Pictures or simply Warner Bros. , is an American producer of film and television entertainment.One of the major film studios, it is a subsidiary of Time Warner, with its headquarters in Burbank,...

, Koch wrote the screenplay for Mission to Moscow
Mission to Moscow
Mission to Moscow is a book by the former U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union Joseph E. Davies published by Simon and Schuster in 1941. It was adapted into a film directed by Michael Curtiz in 1943....

(1943). The movie subsequently spawned controversy because of its positive portrayal of Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

 and the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

. After the war, Koch was fired by Jack Warner after Koch was denounced as a Communist. He was then criticized by the House Un-American Activities Committee
House Un-American Activities Committee
The House Committee on Un-American Activities or House Un-American Activities Committee was an investigative committee of the United States House of Representatives. In 1969, the House changed the committee's name to "House Committee on Internal Security"...

 (HUAC) for his outspoken leftist political views. Koch was blacklisted by Hollywood in 1951.

After being blacklisted, Koch moved with his family to Europe and eventually took up residence in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 with other blacklisted writers where he wrote for five years for film and television under the pseudonyms "Peter Howard" and "Anne Rodney". In 1956, he returned to the United States and settled in Woodstock, New York, where he continued to write plays and books and remained actively committed to progressive political and social justice causes.

Howard Koch died in 1995 in Kingston, New York
Kingston, New York
Kingston is a city in and the county seat of Ulster County, New York, USA. It is north of New York City and south of Albany. It became New York's first capital in 1777, and was burned by the British Oct. 16, 1777, after the Battles of Saratoga...

. He lived in nearby Woodstock, New York
Woodstock, New York
Woodstock is a town in Ulster County, New York, United States. The population was 5,884 at the 2010 census, down from 6,241 at the 2000 census.The Town of Woodstock is in the northern part of the county...

.

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