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A Little Holiday

Geoffrey Wheatcroft: Ben Hecht’s Cause, 23 September 2021

A Child of the Century 
by Ben Hecht.
Yale, 654 pp., £16, April 2020, 978 0 300 25179 1
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Ben HechtFighting Words, Moving Pictures 
by Adina Hoffman.
Yale, 245 pp., £10.99, April 2020, 978 0 300 25181 4
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... In​ the early 1920s, Herman J. Mankiewicz (‘Mank’) and Ben Hecht were not very successful writers in New York. Then Mank ventured west, the first of what was to become an exodus of literary talent to the Hollywood movie studios. In 1925, Mank summoned Hecht to join him with an offer of $300 a week to write for Paramount Pictures: ‘Millions are to be grabbed out here and your only competition is idiots ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Shop around the Corner’, 6 January 2011

The Shop around the Corner 
directed by Ernst Lubitsch.
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... by Miklós László. But it was written by Samson Raphaelson, with the uncredited help of Ben Hecht, and everything about the film, its detailed, old-fashioned sets, its implausible streets, the odd mixture of accents among its characters and the fact that everyone speaks in epigrams, suggests fast-talking Hollywood. Raphaelson also wrote ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Mank’, 21 January 2021

... prepared the way for Citizen Kane. (It is true, apparently, that Mankiewicz sent a telegram to Ben Hecht saying: ‘Come at once. There are millions to be made and your only competition is idiots.’) Kael said that this style, found everywhere in screwball comedy but also in many other films of the 1930s, ‘felt liberating’, furthered a ...

From Papa in Heaven

Russell Davies, 3 September 1981

Ernest Hemingway: Selected Letters 1917-1961 
edited by Carlos Baker.
Granada, 948 pp., £15, April 1981, 0 246 11576 9
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... will go for me on the Jewish thing. I have a lot of references to Jews, ‘the smart Jews like Ben Hecht ... It ... does not make one love the Jews any better ... Asch hit him out of kike gratitude ... I’m all for keeping out of the manuals of the Semites as long as possible’: that kind of noise. But this was conventional then, Pos, you ...

Business as Usual

J. Hoberman: Hitler in Hollywood, 19 December 2013

Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-39 
by Thomas Doherty.
Columbia, 429 pp., £24, April 2013, 978 0 231 16392 7
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The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler 
by Ben Urwand.
Harvard, 327 pp., £19.95, August 2013, 978 0 674 72474 7
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... in Germany and even pandered to the Nazi regime. Thomas Doherty’s Hollywood and Hitler and Ben Urwand’s The Collaboration cover much the same ground while emphasising different aspects of the Hollywood-Hitler connection. Doherty sees the moguls who founded and ran most of the large movie studios as only one part of Hollywood and is sensitive to the ...

On Trying to Be Portugal

Geoffrey Wheatcroft: Zionist Terrorism, 6 August 2009

‘A Senseless, Squalid War’: Voices from Palestine 1945-48 
by Norman Rose.
Bodley Head, 278 pp., £20, March 2009, 978 0 224 07938 9
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Major Farran’s Hat: Murder, Scandal and Britain’s War against Jewish Terrorism 1945-48 
by David Cesarani.
Heinemann, 290 pp., £20, March 2009, 978 0 434 01844 4
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... beautiful democratic Israel’ was revered by liberals, the New Statesman hero-worshipped Ben-Gurion as a model social democrat and the left barely knew that the Palestinians existed. That sentiment persisted until the 1967 war. Even two years after it, when the young Max Hastings visited Israel, he, like so many, was ‘thrilled by the brilliance of ...

Thunder in the Mountains

J. Hoberman: Orson Welles, 6 September 2007

Orson Welles: Hello Americans 
by Simon Callow.
Vintage, 507 pp., £8.99, May 2007, 978 0 09 946261 3
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What Ever Happened to Orson Welles? A Portrait of an Independent Career 
by Joseph McBride.
Kentucky, 344 pp., $29.95, October 2006, 0 8131 2410 7
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... during which he informed her that his plans included three pictures for Alexander Korda and a Ben Hecht story about a girl and a magician, as well as adaptations of Macbeth and The Glass Menagerie, not to mention a version of Moby-Dick for the London stage. Louis Dolivet, a leftwing activist who arrived in America during the war as the embodiment of ...

I want my wings

Andrew O’Hagan: The Last Tycoons, 3 March 2016

West of Eden: An American Place 
by Jean Stein.
Cape, 334 pp., £20, February 2016, 978 0 224 10246 9
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... the counter of Schwab’s drugstore, Joan Didion’s desert air is wafting in under the door, and Ben Hecht is taking notes. Stein has an ear for Americana at its most bewildering, most politically servile, and she listens carefully, knowing that characters can fill out a culture. West of Eden is an oral biography of a few addresses, and the history ...

St Marilyn

Andrew O’Hagan: The Girl and Me, 6 January 2000

The Personal Property of Marilyn Monroe 
Christie’s, 415 pp., $85, September 1999, 0 903432 64 1Show More
The Complete Marilyn Monroe 
by Adam Victor.
Thames and Hudson, 339 pp., £29.95, November 1999, 0 500 01978 9
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Marilyn Monroe 
by Barbara Leaming.
Orion, 474 pp., £8.99, October 1999, 0 7528 2692 1
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... starts off with studio biographies written by publicists, and a kind of memoir by the screenwriter Ben Hecht (later published as My Story by Marilyn Monroe, featuring the well-spun tale of Norma Jeane’s abused childhood, and the white piano she saved from her mother’s house – a piano that sold for three-quarters of a million dollars at the ...

So Hard to Handle

John Lahr: In Praise of Joni Mitchell, 22 February 2018

Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell 
by David Yaffe.
Farrar, Straus, 420 pp., £20, October 2017, 978 0 374 24813 0
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... I am apart but busy on my own project.’ ‘Old songs are more than tunes,’ the playwright Ben Hecht said. ‘They are little houses in which our hearts once lived.’ In the unmoored late 1960s, the great songs and the singers who were their messengers became the unofficial legislators of the times. ‘We were channeling some kind of reality that ...

The Road to West Egg

Thomas Powers, 4 July 2013

Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and the Invention of ‘The Great Gatsby’ 
by Sarah Churchwell.
Virago, 306 pp., £16.99, June 2013, 978 1 84408 766 2
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The Great Gatsby 
directed by Baz Luhrmann.
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... Hope? Was it Mary Hay the actress? Mary Blair who married Wilson? Mary Armstrong who married Ben Hecht, who wrote a book about the screenwriter Charlie MacArthur, who almost made a mother of Dorothy Parker, who wrote a poem about Fitzgerald and fell a little in love with him? From this chaos of possible connections there gradually emerges an ...

Inhumane, Intolerant, Unclean

Ian Gilmour, 31 October 1996

A History of Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths 
by Karen Armstrong.
HarperCollins, 474 pp., £20, July 1996, 0 00 255522 0
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Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years 
by Israel Shahak.
Pluto, 118 pp., £11.99, April 1994, 9780745308180
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City of the Great King: Jerusalem from David to the Present 
edited by Nitza Rosovsky.
Harvard, 562 pp., £25.50, April 1996, 0 674 13190 8
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Jerusalem in the 20th Century 
by Martin Gilbert.
Chatto, 400 pp., £20, May 1996, 0 7011 3070 9
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Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict 
by Norman Finkelstein.
Verso, 230 pp., £39.95, December 1995, 1 85984 940 7
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To Rule Jerusalem 
by Roger Friedland and Richard Hecht.
Cambridge, 554 pp., £29.95, June 1996, 0 521 44046 7
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... in 1974 and unambiguously announced in 1988. Yet despite these and other blunders Friedland and Hecht are usually fair, and their book, based on many interviews conducted over a period of years, contains much fascinating material. They are especially good on the fast increasing number of Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem. The founder of political Zionism, Theodor ...

A Rumbling of Things Unknown

Jacqueline Rose: Marilyn Monroe, 26 April 2012

... exposé of the curse of celebrity, and one of the many books that Monroe owned. According to Ben Hecht, Monroe said that Steffens’s autobiography excited her ‘more than any other book I had read’. She was excited by it at the exact moment when the world, for very different reasons, was about to be excited by her, when she was on the verge of ...
Wagner in Performance 
edited by Barry Millington and Stewart Spencer.
Yale, 214 pp., £19.95, July 1992, 0 300 05718 0
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Wagner: Race and Revolution 
by Paul Lawrence Rose.
Faber, 304 pp., £20, June 1992, 9780571164653
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Wagner Handbook 
edited by Ulrich Müller and Peter Wapnewski, translated by John Deathridge.
Harvard, 711 pp., £27.50, October 1992, 0 674 94530 1
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Richard Wagner’s Visit to Rossini and An Evening at Rossini’s in Beau-Séjour 
by Edmond Michotte, translated by Herbert Weinstock.
Quartet, 144 pp., £12.95, November 1992, 9780704370319
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... Hitler’s enabler – the final straw. The crucial word is ‘fundamental’. Rose – currently Hecht Professor at Haifa University – is a fundamentalist, a Khomeini of the arts, who might, like the frequently, and justly, criticised Iranian mullahs, ask for books to be banned or burnt as an instrument of state authority. Rose can scarcely bear to allow ...

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