“There should be no sorrow at this funeral because The Great Santini lived life at full throttle, moved always in the fast lanes, gunned every engine, teetered on every edge, seized every moment and shook it like a terrier shaking a rat.”
A Fighter Pilot’s Eulogy
(The book & movie The Great Santini was based on Pat Conroy’s Marine jet fighter pilot dad)
Today the Air Force Thunderbirds were in Waterloo, Iowa. Since we only have two commercial flights that go in and out of the area on most days, the air space was a little more crowded that usual. I had never been to an air show, but since my father and my wife’s father were both pilots in the Air Force we decided to go see the jet pilots do their thing. Being a Thunderbird is harder than being a screenwriter because there are fewer than a dozen spots. For my post today, I couldn’t find anyone who was a jet pilot and a screenwriter so I settled for the screenwriter of the movie Jet Pilot.
I could have taken the easy way out and written something about Top Gun, but there’s a lot written on that film—besides that’s the Navy. Jet Pilot came out in 1958 and starred John Wayne plays an Air Force Colonel. Jet Pilot was written by Jules Furthman who racked up over 100 IMDB writing credits. He was born in 1888 in Chicago and Jet Pilot was his second to last film and was followed by another John Wayne film he wrote, Rio Bravo.
His lone Oscar nomination was for the 1935 film Mutiny in the Bounty (shared with Talbot Jennings and Carey Wilson). He also wrote The Big Sleep and To Have and Have Not (based on Hemingway’s novel). Some of his credits are under the name Stephen Fox because after World War 1 several sources point out it was thought that the name Furthman was too German sounding—which was a negative association at that time.
The New York Times wrote that Furthman was a grad of Northwestern University (which comes up from time to time on my posts) and got his start writing for newspapers. Many of his screenplays were for silent film which have not survived. He wrote eight films each for directors Josef von Sternberg and Howard Hawks. Film Reference points out that Furthman wrote the screenplay Only Angles Have Wings which, “was based loosely on Hawks experience flying experience in South America” and starred Cary Grant.
I have not seen many of Furthman’s movies but the one I am most interested in seeing is The Docks of New York (1928) because there appear to be traces of influence on the classic On the Waterfront (1954), its sets were designed by Hans Dreier known for his work on Sunset Boulevard, and the cinematography was by Harold Rosson who also shot The Wizard of Oz. That’s a lot of talent on one film. (You can see a clip from The Docks of New York at The Criterion Collection website.)
Jules Furthman is not a name kicked around with the great screenwriters of all time, but he was one prolific writer who worked on some great films with some legendary Hollywood talent. He died in 1966.
P.S. For those of you in South Carolina, many of Furthman’s writings are archived at the University of South Carolina.
Kickstarter update–Tomorrow (Monday, August 29, 2011) is the last day to participate in the Kickstarter campaign for Screenwriting from Iowa. It will take a major come from behind push to make the goal so I’d appreciate any help you can give it. Check it out here. Special thanks to Matt Cowley, Denise Kawaii, and Eric Damin Walters for their help in the last day for their support in helping Screenwriitng from Iowa…and Other Unlikely Places become a book.