John Lee Mahin
In 1924 while shooting a film in New York, actress Patsy Ruth Miller (1904-1995) developed a close friendship with author F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda. Frequently, Fitzgerald and Patsy Ruth would go out for dinner while Zelda remained home pleading fatigue. Patsy Ruth eventually realized that Zelda’s fatigue was acute alcoholism.
Observes Patsy Ruth:
It didn’t seem to me that Scott drank more than most of the men I knew. He seemed intoxicated on words, and sometimes we would sit, our after-dinner coffee growing cold, while Scott tried to make me see some fine point of writing, or understand why an emotion had been ill or well portrayed. But often I had the feeling that he was unsure of himself as a writer, that he was afraid of that one day he’d have nothing left to say, and I also had the impression that Zelda did little to build his confidence, even sometimes, in a perverse way, seemed to enjoy his battle with self-doubt.
Fitzgerald’s agonies of self-doubt are common among writers. The fear of having nothing left to say will, inevitably, be paralyzing. And a non-supportive spouse can act as a fatal poison to a vulnerable writer. Most witnesses observe that Fitzgerald was a heavy drinker as a student in Princeton. There is no doubt that by the time he landed in Hollywood he was a hopeless drunk. It’s a measure of how common was alcoholism in early Hollywood that Patsy Ruth didn’t think Fitzgerald’s intake was all that unusual.
From where do we draw wisdom?
First and foremost, Seraphic Secret relies on Torah, on the lessons of 3,000 years of Jewish history and the common sense advice of my wife Karen.
And then there are the movies, a moral landscape of immeasurable power where searing images and razor-sharp dialogue deliver lessons in human character that, for better or worse, shape modern man’s consciousness.
I know it seems ludicrous if not downright blasphemous noting Torah and movies as primary influences but the mind of yours truly, a screenwriter and movie-lover, is a stage of raging intellectual conflicts.
Here are several prime slices of dialogue that elegantly and economically reveal secret corners of our hearts and minds.
From where do we draw wisdom?
First and foremost, Seraphic Secret relies on the Torah—written and oral—on the lessons of 3,000 years of Jewish history, and on the common sense advice of my wife Karen.
And then there are the movies, a moral landscape of immeasurable power where searing images and razor-sharp dialogue deliver lessons in human character that, for better or for worse, shape modern man’s consciousness.
I know it seems ludicrous, if not downright blasphemous, noting Torah and movies as primary influences, but the mind of yours truly, a screenwriter and movie-lover, is a stage of raging intellectual conflicts.
Here are five slices of dialogue by some of of Hollywood’s finest screenwriters that brilliantly and economically unmask a raw and vulnerable humanity.
John Lee Mahin (1902-1984) was one of the greatest screenwriters. His credits include some of Hollywood’s most enduring classics: Scarface (1932), Red Dust (1932), Bombshell (1933), China Seas (1935), Wife Versus Secretary (1936), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941) with uncredited contributions to, among others, A Star is Born (1937), Test Pilot (1938), Gone With the Wind (1939) and The Wizard of Oz (1939). Mahin was director Victor Fleming’s most trusted screenwriter and in one way or another Mahin contributed to nearly every Fleming film.
Mahin understood star power. He instinctively knew that Harlow’s hyper sexuality was best exploited through humor and naughty wisecracks. Thus Red Dust and Bombshell were Harlow’s very best pictures.
Mahin also understood raw male power. And during Hollywood’s golden age, no male star approached Clark Gable’s dominance. Women wanted Gable and men wanted to be Gable.