MacArthur, Charles

▪ American playwright
born Nov. 5, 1895, Scranton, Pa., U.S.
died April 21, 1956, New York, N.Y.

      American journalist, dramatist, and screenwriter, a colourful personality who is remembered for his comedies written with Ben Hecht (Hecht, Ben).

      At the age of 17, MacArthur moved to Chicago to begin a career in journalism, which was briefly interrupted by military service, first in 1916 in Mexico and then in World War I. He wrote for the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Herald-Examiner before moving to New York City to work for the New York American and to begin writing plays. He worked primarily with collaborators, joining with Edward Sheldon on Lulu Belle (produced 1926) and with Sidney Howard on Salvation (produced 1928).

      MacArthur and Hecht began their long partnership and earned critical acclaim with The Front Page (1928), a farce about a star reporter who is drawn into his own story. This play was three times adapted for film, in 1931, 1974, and most notably—starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell—as His Girl Friday (1940). MacArthur and Hecht also achieved success with Twentieth Century (produced 1932; filmed 1934 by Howard Hawks (Hawks, Howard)), a lively satire of the entertainment industry that takes place on an express train between Chicago and New York City. Their other collaborations include Jumbo (1934), Ladies and Gentlemen (produced 1939), and Swan Song (produced 1946). The pair also wrote many successful screenplays in the 1930s, among them Crime Without Passion (1934), The Scoundrel (1935), which won an Academy Award for best original story, Soak the Rich (1936), Gunga Din (1939), and Wuthering Heights (1939). MacArthur's solo screenplays include The Sin of Madelon Claudet (1931), which featured an Academy Award-winning performance by his second wife, Helen Hayes (Hayes, Helen), Rasputin and the Empress (1932), and The Senator Was Indiscreet (1947).

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Universalium. 2010.

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