Frances Goodrich Biography

Start Your Free Trial

Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Download Frances Goodrich Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Frances Goodrich, born in Belleville, New Jersey, on December 21, 1890, was the second of five children born to Madeleine Christy Lloyd and Henry Wickes Goodrich. In 1893 the Goodriches moved to Nutley, New Jersey, where Frances grew up. She graduated from Vassar College in 1912, subsequently attended the School of Social Service, and shortly thereafter took up acting, appearing in plays such as Come out of the Kitchen (1916). Goodrich also began writing and in 1928 asked another actor, Albert Maurice Hackett, to help her with a script; thus they began to collaborate on screenplays—a partnership that lasted until they wrote their final screenplay together in 1962, Five Finger Exercise. After 1962, the only two works of Goodrich and Hackett are two teleplay adaptations: It Happened One Christmas and The Diary of Anne Frank.

Frances Goodrich enjoyed an enormously successful professional and personal relationship with Albert M. Hackett. They collaborated on thirty-five screenplays. Goodrich and Hackett married on February 7, 1931, and their very happy union lasted until Goodrich’s death in 1984. The marriage was Goodrich’s third and Hackett’s first. Goodrich’s first marriage was to actor Bob Ames on May 3, 1917. Her second marriage was to historian and author Hendrik Willem van Loon, on October 11, 1927. This marriage proved to be brief, lasting only two years; in fact, the incompatible couple lived apart throughout their marriage, keeping separate apartments.

Author David L. Goodrich, Frances’s nephew, attributes Goodrich’s willingness to marry van Loon to her loneliness and to the historian’s incessant and ardent pursuit of her.

Goodrich and Hackett received four nominations for Academy Awards, for The Thin Man, After the Thin Man, Father of the Bride, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. In 1956 Goodrich’s and Hackett’s play The Diary of Anne Frank earned for them a Pulitzer Prize in drama as well as the Antoinette Perry Award, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, and the Laurel Award. Easter Parade and Father’s Little Dividend earned for them the Writers Guild Award for Best Comedy, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers garnered the Writers Guild Award for Best Musical.

Although Goodrich and Hackett were considered a comedic writing team, they are best known for their play The Diary of Anne Frank. Their adaptation of Anne Frank’s Het Achterhuis (1947; The Diary of a Young Girl, 1952) is moving and proved to be an enormous success, yet it also received some criticism. Authors Meyer Levin and Ralph Melnick attacked the drama, asserting that Goodrich and Hackett’s play strips Frank of her Jewish heritage, universalizing the plight of the teenage girl hiding in the annex. Levin claimed that the play was more concerned with popularity and box office sales than with dramatizing the true story. Goodrich and Hackett’s play was written after Levin’s version had proven unacceptable to writers and producers; Levin also accused Goodrich and Hackett of plagiarism, although he and the Goodrich-Hackett team had drawn from the same source—Frank’s diary. Goodrich and Hackett earned much praise and the aforementioned awards for the play. It is noteworthy that Goodrich and Hackett had already established an excellent reputation before they embarked on their adaptation of the diary.

It’s a Wonderful Life, authored by Goodrich, Hackett, and film producer Frank Capra, had lukewarm success in its day but later became a huge success. It is shown often on television during the holiday season. Goodrich and Hackett penned three screenplays in their Thin Man series, a collection of films that exemplify the industry in its heyday of the 1930’s. The novel upon which the films were based was written by talented author Dashiell Hammett, yet it was Goodrich and Hackett who created the delightful dialogue and who developed in greater depth the charming and humorous main characters, Nick and Nora Charles. The careers of actors such as William Powell, Myrna Loy, and others benefited from their working in Goodrich-Hackett films because the talented screenwriting team provided witty dialogue, developed characters, and enjoyable films. Because of their acting experience, Goodrich and Hackett proved adept at creating realistic scenes.

Biography

(Drama for Students)

Albert Hackett Published by Gale Cengage

Goodrich was born in New Jersey in 1890. After graduating from Vassar College in 1912, she went to New York where she studied for a year at the New York School of Social Work. Her first acting experience was with a Massachusetts stock company, but in 1916 she made her Broadway debut.

Hackett was born in New York in 1900, the son of professional actors. He made his stage debut when he was six years old. He performed in silent films and on stage before becoming a writer.

Goodrich and Hackett met in 1927, when both were performing with a Denver stock company. They soon began working as a writing team. The first collaborative effort was the play Up Pops the Devil, which opened in New York in 1930 and was made into a film the following year. Also in 1931, the couple married.

By 1932, Hollywood’s MGM studio was contracting their writing services; between 1933 and 1939, they wrote thirteen films, many of them box-office successes. Their work, such as 1934’s The Thin Man and its sequels, was characterized by its literate and sophisticated dialogue. After a brief return to New York to write plays and act, in 1941 Goodrich and Hackett signed on with Paramount but found few rewarding assignments there. In 1946, they moved to RKO to work on It’s a Wonderful Life. In the 1940s, Goodrich and Hackett wrote several more award-winning scripts, including Easter Parade (1948), Father of the Bride (1950), and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954).

By the 1950s, however, Goodrich and Hackett had become interested in a different sort of project: an adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank. They worked on this script for two years, even meeting with Otto Frank and visiting the attic where the Franks and four other Jews hid from the Nazis. The play opened on Broadway in 1955, and it was the high point of their careers, earning a Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize. In 1959, they adapted the play into a film, but though it was a critical success, it did not gain popularity at the box office.

Goodrich and Hackett’s final film was 1962’s Five Finger Exercise. After its failure, they returned to New York and ceased writing screenplays. Goodrich died of cancer on January 19, 1984, in New York. Hackett died of pneumonia on March 16, 1995, in New York.

Bibliography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

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 Hackett, Writers of Stage and Screen Classics. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2001. This is an extremely valuable and useful book on Goodrich and Hackett, written by Goodrich’s nephew. Provides a look into the work and lives of Goodrich and Hackett.

The New York Times, January 31, 1984, sec. 6, p. 3. Goodrich’s obituary provides a summary of her life and career and a list of her major credits.