Biography

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Screenwriters Albert Maurice Hackett and Frances Goodrich were married on February 7, 1931, and lived happily together for fifty-three years. They enjoyed an enormously successful professional, and very happy personal, relationship, with the marriage lasting until Goodrich’s death on January 19, 1984. It was Hackett’s first marriage and Goodrich’s third. A year after Goodrich’s death, Hackett married dancer Gisella Svetlik.

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Albert Hackett collaborated with Frances Goodrich on thirty-five screenplays, working together on films from 1928 to 1962; they subsequently wrote two teleplays, It Happened One Christmas and The Diary of Anne Frank. The Hackett-Goodrich team wrote four screenplays that earned nominations for Academy Awards—The Thin Man, After the Thin Man, Father of the Bride, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. None of the four, however, won the award. Nonetheless, Hackett and Goodrich won many prizes for their dramatic adaptation of Anne Frank’s diary about her years in hiding during the Holocaust. The Diary of Anne Frank won a Pulitzer Prize in drama, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, the Antoinette Perry Award, and the Laurel Award.

The Hackett and Goodrich screenwriting team was known for its comic touches in their films, and they stand today as one of the greatest, but also one of the most underrated, comedic screenwriting teams of all time. In addition to being an accomplished writer, Hackett was also a talented comic actor. His acting experience proved invaluable to him as a writer because he was able to envision and create screenplays and dramas from not only the perspective of a writer but also that of an actor.

One of their major successes was Father of the Bride. An adaptation of Edward Streeter’s novel, Father of the Bride concerns a father’s struggle to come to terms with the realization that his beloved daughter is getting married; he also must endure the exhorbitant expenses and deal with the planning of the wedding—with all the joys and pitfalls that occur. The movie was tender, funny, and universal, for many people could relate to what the father, played by Spencer Tracy, was experiencing. The success of the film led to a sequel titled Father’s Little Dividend, in which the father experiences life as a grandfather. Another great film was The Thin Man, which was a box office hit starring William Powell and Myrna Loy. Still another huge success for Hackett and Goodrich was the immortal classic It’s a Wonderful Life, starring Jimmy Stewart. Enormously popular every Christmas, the film focuses on the life of the despairing George Bailey, who learns what life in his small town would have been like without him. The reception of the film was mixed when it initially was released, but its popularity has grown significantly over time. There is some debate as to how much of the writing of the film belongs to legendary director Frank Capra and how much to Hackett and Goodrich.

When Hackett and Goodrich were granted the assignment of adapting Anne Frank’s Het Achterhuis (1947; The Diary of a Young Girl, 1952), they wrote a play that proved to be a huge hit; subsequently, they penned a screenplay and a teleplay for The Diary of Anne Frank. Comic author James Thurber told them not to accept the role of adapting Anne Frank’s diary because they were such successful comic writers and that this dark and serious project was not appropriate for them. It was, however, their ability to add comic touches to this tragic Holocaust story that made playwright Lillian Hellman recommend them to producer Kermit Bloomgarden. Furthermore, novelist Meyer Levin, the first writer selected by Otto Frank (Anne Frank’s father) to dramatize the diary, created such a serious and tragic play that Bloomgarden and several playwrights found the play unworthy of being staged; thus Bloomgarden and Otto Frank rejected Levin’s version and subsequently chose Hackett and Goodrich to adapt the diary. Hackett died of pneumonia on March 16, 1995.

Bibliography

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Ehrlich, Evelyn. “Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett.” In American Screenwriters, edited by Robert E. Morsberger, Stephen O. Lesser, and Randall Clark. Vol. 26 in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1984. This essay provides a solid overview of the careers of Hackett and Goodrich.

Goodrich, David L. The Real Nick and Nora: Frances Goodrich and Albert Hacket, Writers of Stage and Screen Classics. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2001. This is an extremely valuable and useful book on Hackett and Goodrich, written by Goodrich’s nephew. Provides an extensive look into the work and lives of Hackett and Goodrich.

The New York Times, March 18, 1995. Hackett’s obituary discusses his life and career.

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