Screenwriting Blog
Posted on by Courtney Meznarich

This Month in Filmmaking History - August 2021 Roundup

  • On this day in history

    In the Heat
       of the Night

    screenplay by

    • Stirling Silliphant

    In the Heat of the Night -

    Stirling Silliphant wrote the Oscar-winning screenplay for "In the Heat of the Night," which premiered on this day in history in 1967. The story is based on a novel by the same name authored by John Ball, though some parts of the movie differ. The plot centers on a black police detective who is wrongfully arrested for murder and later aids the police department in solving the crime. The film is historically significant not just for its theme that reflected that point in civil rights history but because it is thought to be the first Hollywood film shot in color that was properly lit for a Black person.

    Read the screenplay for "In the Heat of the Night."

  • On this day in history

    The Man
    in Grey

    screenplay by

    • Margaret Kennedy
    • Leslie Arliss
    • Doreen Montgomery

    The Man in Grey -

    Considered one of the first "Gainsborough Melodramas," "The Man in Grey" debuted on this day in history in 1943. Doreen Montgomery adapted the story from Eleanor Smith's 1941 novel, and Margaret Kennedy and Leslie Arliss wrote the screenplay. "Gainsborough Melodramas" were a series of films by Gainsborough Studios, unrelated in story but similar in theme, usually based on female novelists' books. They were highly dramatic and emotional, focused chiefly on dialogue. The films were hugely popular in the United Kingdom, where mostly women were going to the theater. "The Man in Grey" is centered on a younger woman who marries out of convenience but later falls in love with a traveling actor.

  • On this day in history


    • Born 93 years ago

    Romeo Muller -

    Screenwriter and actor Romeo Muller was born on this day in history 93 years ago. He is perhaps best known for the screenwriting work that he did for Ranking/Bass Animated Entertainment, penning scripts for more than a dozen American holiday classics such as "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "Frosty the Snowman," and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." He found his creativity early in life, writing plays and puppeteering while still in grade school. CBS Founder William S. Paley discovered Muller's talents after he wrote material for comedian Jack Benny, and Paley hired him to his first staff writing position on "Studio One."

  • On this day in history


    • Born 94 years ago

    Robert Shaw -

    Actor and novelist Robert Shaw was born on this day in history 94 years ago. He is probably most famous for his roles in the James Bond film, "From Russia With Love," and as Quint in "Jaws," but he appeared in dozens of films over his career until he passed away at just 51 years old in 1978. Shaw wrote novels and plays during his life as well and wrote the adapted screenplay for the 1970 action-thriller "Figures in a Landscape." His 1960 novel "The Hiding Place" was turned into the oddball comedy film "Situation Hopeless … But Not Serious."   

  • On this day in history

    Lina Wertmüller

    • Happy birthday!

    Lina Wertmüller -

    Lina Wertmüller was born on this day 93 years ago, cementing herself as a respected Italian screenwriter and director. She is the first woman to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director and only the second female director ever to be honored with an Academy Honorary Award. Wertmüller was heavily influenced by the renowned Italian auteur Federico Fellini, with whom she considered a mentor. Her work often depicts Italian working-class people and the economic and political repercussions they face, as well as the battle of the sexes. Her most famous films include "Swept Away" and "Seven Beauties."

  • On this day in history


    • Born 95 years ago

    Norman Wexler -

    Screenwriter and playwright Norman Wexler was born on this day in history in 1926. His most famous film is "Saturday Night Fever," a story he adapted from a New York Magazine article about the disco lifestyle. This article later turned out to be fabricated. He also wrote the popular films "Joe" and "Serpico," earning Oscar nominations for both. Wexler struggled in his personal life, though, suffering from bipolar disorder, and even getting arrested at one point in the 70s for threatening to shoot then-President Richard Nixon.

  • On this day in history


    • Born 133 years ago

    Anita Loos -

    One of the earliest known female staffed scriptwriters in Hollywood, Anita Loos was born on this day in 1888. She earned $75 per week at the Triangle Film Corporation, plus a bonus for every produced script, getting her first screen credit on an adaptation of Shakespeare's "Macbeth." Though she has dozens of screenwriting credits and playwriting credits to her name over her career, Loos is perhaps best known for her novel, "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," which started as a series published in Harper's Bazaar. The story went on to become the wildly successful film of the same name starring Marilyn Monroe.

  • On this day in history

    The Haunting

    screenplay by

    • Nelson Gidding

    The Haunting -

    Screenwriter Nelson Gidding's "The Haunting" left audiences absolutely terrified when it premiered on this day in 1963. Gidding based the horror film on Shirley Jackson's novel "The Haunting of Hill House," which follows a group of people who a paranormal expert invites to investigate a supposedly haunted house. Gidding changed several parts of the story, with the inclusion of mental breakdowns, the exclusion of much ghost activity occurring on screen, and making most of the action occur within the house, so the audience had a greater feeling of confinement. The terrifying nature of the movie may have worked against it at the box office, where the film was only a so-so success. Critics said the screenplay had significant plot holes, but the movie has more recently come into favor. Director Steven Spielberg said it's the "scariest film ever made." The 1999 remake was heavily criticized.

  • On this day in history

     Way Down

    screenplay by

    • Joseph R. Grismer, Anthony Paul Kelly
    • D.W. Griffith, William A. Brady

    Way Down East -

    "Way Down East," a silent romantic drama, premiered on this day in 1920. It was the third time Lottie Blair Parker's 19th century stage play had been adapted for the screen, but not the last. D.W. Griffith wrote and directed the film, with writing help from Anthony Paul Kelly and the adaptation by Joseph R. Grismer. The movie is best known for its ice-floe sequence, where the lead character Anna is shown floating down a river on an ice sheet toward a waterfall before being rescued. The scene was shot in Vermont, where crews had to dynamite the ice to get the ice sheets Griffith desired. Lillian Gish, who played Anna, suffered permanent damage to her hand from the cold water, and D.W. Griffith was frostbitten on his face. It was one of Griffith's most successful films at the box office and the second most expensive silent film ever produced.

  • On this day in history

    Mary Poppins

    screenplay by

    • Bill Walsh
    • Don DaGradi

    Mary Poppins -

    "Mary Poppins" floated into Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles on this day in history in 1964, but Walt Disney's first live-action feature didn't have an easy road. The musical was based on P.L. Travers' book series by the same name, and Bill Walsh and Don DaGradi wrote the screenplay. It took 20 years for Disney to convince Travers to sell him the film rights to her series, but Disney had promised his daughters that he would make a film based on their beloved books. Travers finally agreed, demanding script approval rights. Disney and Travers' contentious relationship throughout the production was dramatized in the 2013 Disney film, "Saving Mr. Banks."

    Read the screenplay transcript for "Mary Poppins.”

  • On this day in history

    The Battle
      of Algiers

    screenplay by

    • Franco Solinas
    • Gillo Pontecorvo

    The Battle of Algiers -

    The historical war drama "The Battle of Algiers" premiered on this day in history in 1966 and documented the Algerian fight for independence from the French government in the 1950s. Franco Solinas and Gillo Pontecorvo wrote the screenplay, inspired by Saadi Yacef's accounts as a French prisoner during the Algerian War. Yacef also starred in the film, which mainly consisted of amateur actors who had survived the actual Battle of Algiers. The film was shot in a style reminiscent of a newsreel to lend to its historical nature, and experts say it's an excellent representation of urban guerrilla warfare. The film was banned in France for five years after its release due to the political nature of the commentary.

    Read the screenplay transcript for “The Battle of Algiers.”