“It’s like building a stone wall without mortar. You place the words one at a time, fit them, take them apart and refit them until they’re balanced and solid.”
M*A*S*H co-writer W.C. Heinz on the creative process
Since the title of this blog is Screenwriting from Iowa, I should at least give a shout-out today to the University of Iowa football team. The Hawkeyes finished the regular season 12-0 under head coach Kirk Ferentz and face Michigan State tonight in the Big Ten Championship.
The University of Iowa has been mentioned plenty of times over the years on this blog for many of its graduates ranging from playwright Tennessee Williams to screenwriter Diablo Cody, as well as The Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
A nice football and writing tie in to the University of Iowa is the creator of the TV show Coach (1989-1997), Barry Kemp, is an Iowa graduate. The three time Primetime Emmy-winner also wrote for the popular Tv shows Newhart and Taxi. (Actor Craig T. Nelson, who was the head football coach in Coach, plays a character named Hayden Fox, which is said to have been a nod to former Iowa head football coach Hayden Fry.)
And I’m sure when many film and TV people hear “Hawkeye” the first thing that pops into their head is the character Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce from M*A*S*H. Played by Donald Sutherland in the movie and Alan Alda TV program.
Fewer remember that the movie and TV program were based on a book. Ring Lardner Jr., screenwriter of the MASH movie, wrote of the MASH novel, “Not since Catch-22 has the struggle to maintain sanity in the rampant insanity of war been told in such outrageously funny terms.”
H. Richard Hornberger and W.C. Heinz (under the pseudonym Richard Hooker) wrote MASH: The Novel of Three Army Doctors. Hornberger, who died in 1997, was a surgeon in Maine and based the novel on his experiences during the Korean War. Hornberger reportedly worked on MASH for 12 years.
Heinz was a well known sports writer and war correspondent. His 1,000 word piece Death of a Racehorse written in 1949 was later called in Sports Illustrated, “the Gettysburg Address of sportswriting.” He wrote The Surgeon (1963) a semi-fictional book that I imagine had something to do with Heinz and Hornberger writing MASH together to complete what Hornberger started. (And to keep with the football theme also wrote Run to Daylight! with the great football coach Vince Lombardi.)
And while Mark Richt has nothing to do with the Iowa Hawkeyes or “Hawkeye” Pierce he did have an interesting week in the world of college football. Just a week ago he was the head coach at the University of Georgia who beat George Tech to finish the season 9-3. The next day he was fired from his position after 15 years.
But he wasn’t unemployed long. Friday it was officially announced that he would be the head coach at his alma mater the University of Miami. That’s a pretty dramatic reversal in just seven days. I think it’s great hire for both The U and Richt.
He was a star high school quarterback just north of Miami in Boca Raton who earned a scholarship the University of Miami, and dreamed of winning a national championship and the Heisman Trophy on his way to playing in the NFL. But he was largely a back up to future NFL Hall-of-Famer Jim Kelly at Miami. And while the Hurricanes went on to win five national championship, that run began after he left—the first one just a year after his playing days were over.
But things worked out okay as he turned to coaching where last year alone he made over $4 million dollars is thought to make that much yearly in Miami. There’s no doubt it’s been an emotional week for Richt and his family who have deep roots in Athens, George. But yesterday at the press conference in Miami he was smiling and looking good—well, as good as one can wearing a orange and green tie.
Welcome back to Florida Coach Richt.
P.S. In my brief stint as a walk-on football player at Miami, Richt was the back-up to Jim Kelly. I don’t know if he’ll lead Miami back into the National Championship hunt, but I like what he said yesterday about his Miami players, “I want them to behave socially. And I want them to … set themselves up for the future by growing into men that can become wonderful husbands and fathers, and leaders in their communities when it’s all done.”