A writer for the Saturday Evening Post in the 1920s and 30s,NUNNALLY JOHNSON moved to Hollywood in 1932 and very quickly established himself as writer,producer and director.
He wrote the screenplay for THE HOUSE OF ROTHSCHILD for Darryl Zanuck in 1934.
Johnson was with Fox from 1935 to 1942 and from 1949 to 1963.
In addition to having sole credit ( a rarity in Hollywood) on 73 scripts,Nunnally Johnson also produced over 40 films and directed 8.
He wrote ROXIE HART, THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW,CHAD HANNA,HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE and THE THREE FACES OF EVE.
He adapted John Steinbeck’s THE GRAPES OF WRATH in 1940.
In 1943 he founded International Pictures with William Goetz and their films included The Woman in the Window.
In 1946, International Pictures merged with Universal.
His films as director included NIGHT PEOPLE,THE BLACK WIDOW, ,THE THREE FACES OF EVE.
So, a central figure in classic Hollywood, and the book,THE LETTERS OF NUNNALLY JOHNSON (1981) is fascinating reading.
In August 1951, he wrote to his friend Lauren Bacall:
“Dear Betty, We started the picture yesterday, to my great regret,without you. Miss Shelley Winters willl do what she can to fill your dainty shoes. My heart of course remains with you.”
(Bacall had been Johnson’s first choice for a part in PHONE CALL FROM A STRANGER, but had turned it down in order to accompany Bogart to Africa for THE AFRICAN QUEEN.)
Johnson wrote and produced the film adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier’s MY COUSIN RACHEL.
In a letter of March,1951 to costume designer,Margaret Furse, Johnson said,:
“We are still mumbling about the cast for Rachel. Once Vivien Leigh eliminated herself I’ve been rather at a loss. You’d think that the world would be full of thirty-five year old actresses able to give off a hint of mystery, but none of them that I’ve seen have been able to convince me.”
(Olivia de Havilland got the part.)
To critic Pauline Kael, in June 1968, he wrote:
“Ben Hecht didn’t write ROXIE HART. I did.. I take it as a compliment,of course, that you attribute it to Hecht,but if you had let me know you were going to be sloppy about it, I could have named you a score of other films I’ve written,that you would have been welcome to attribute to somebody else,anybody else in fact!”