|A.K.A.||James P. Bonner, Harriet Frank|
|Was||Film producer Screenwriter|
|From||United States of America|
|Field||Film, TV, Stage & Radio|
|Birth||2 March 1923, Portland, USA|
|Death||28 January 2020, Los Angeles, USA (aged 96 years)|
Harriet Frank Jr. (born Harriet Goldstein; March 2, 1923 – January 28, 2020) was an American screenwriter and producer. Working alongside her husband, Irving Ravetch, Frank received many awards during her career, including the New York Film Critics Circle Awards and the Writers Guild of America Award, and several nominations.
Frank began her writing career after World War II, under Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's young writer's training program, where she first met her future husband. She married Ravetch in 1946 but worked independently for ten years, finally collaborating with him in 1957, a relationship that continued for the remainder of her career. During 33 years of collaboration, they created the screenplays for a variety of films, mainly adaptations of the works of American authors.
Frank and Ravetch maintained a close working relationship with director Martin Ritt, collaborating with him on eight film projects. After initially being suggested by Ravetch to direct The Long, Hot Summer (1958), Ritt would eventually draw the couple out of inactivity on three occasions, hiring them to write the screenplays for Norma Rae (1979), Murphy's Romance (1985) and Stanley & Iris (1990). The last was both the last film directed by Ritt (who died later that year) and the last screenplay by Frank and Ravetch.
Frank is one of the "leading characters" in the memoir The Mighty Franks: A Memoir (2017), written by her nephew Michael Frank, an essayist and short-story writer.
Life and career
Harriet Frank Jr. was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, the daughter of Edith Frances (Bergman) and Sam Goldstein, a shoe store owner. Her mother changed the family name to Frank, and her own name to Harriet, making herself Harriet, Sr. and her daughter Harriet, Jr. In 1939, she relocated with her family to Los Angeles, where her mother worked as a Hollywood story editor; her father attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), at the same time as her future husband, Irving Ravetch. Having graduated at different times from UCLA, the two met in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer young writers' training program after World War II.
The couple married in 1946, but worked independently for over ten years, with Frank writing for projects such as A Really Important Person (short, 1947), Whiplash (1948) and Run for Cover (1955). The couple first collaborated on the script of an adaptation of William Faulkner's novel The Hamlet which was released as The Long, Hot Summer (1958), although Frank later said, "in the end, we created mostly new material, so it wasn't really a true adaptation".
Martin Ritt, having directed The Long, Hot Summer on suggestion by Ravetch, then directed the couple's next collaboration, The Sound and the Fury (1959), once again an adaptation of a William Faulkner novel. Frank and Ravetch collaborated on two films released in 1960, Home from the Hill, an adaptation of the novel of the same name, and The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, an adaptation of a Tony award-winning play.
Frank and Ravetch reunited with Martin Ritt to write the screenplay for Hud (1963), adapted from the novel Horseman, Pass By (1961) by Larry McMurtry. The film was positively reviewed by the critics, with the couple sharing a New York Film Critics Circle Award for "Best Screenplay" and a Writers Guild of America Award (WGA Award) for "Best Written American Drama". They were also nominated for an Academy Award in the category of "Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium".
Frank worked alongside her husband and Ritt on Hombre (1967), a Revisionist Western film based on the novel of the same name. The next year, Frank and Ravetch wrote the screenplay for House of Cards (1968, released in the US the following year), a mystery film directed by John Guillermin. For House of Cards, Frank was credited, together with her husband, under the pen name of "James P. Bonner". Frank and Ravetch returned to the works of William Faulkner, writing the screenplay for a film adaptation of his last novel The Reivers (1969).
Frank and Ravetch wrote the screenplay for The Cowboys (1972), based on the novel of the same name, and The Carey Treatment (also 1972), based on the novel A Case of Need by Michael Crichton. For the latter, the couple were credited under "James P. Bonner", the last time they would adopt the pen name. The couple reunited once again with Martin Ritt to write the screenplay for Conrack (1974), based on the autobiographical book The Water Is Wide, with Frank also working as producer. The film was commercially and critically well-received, winning a BAFTA award. The couple wrote for an adaptation of the novel The Bank Robber, released as The Spikes Gang (also 1974). Around this time, Frank also wrote two novels, Single: a novel (1977), and Special Effects (1979).
Frank and Ravetch next project, Norma Rae (1979), was another collaboration with director Martin Ritt. The film tells the story of a factory worker from the Southern United States who becomes involved in labour union activities. Unusually, for the couple, the film was based on a true story, that of Crystal Lee Jordan. It was arguably their best received film, winning numerous awards, including two Academy Awards.
Another six years passed before the couple's next filmed screenplay, this time for the romantic comedy Murphy's Romance (1985), based on a novel by Max Schott. Once more they worked with director Martin Ritt, their seventh project together, and with Sally Field, who played the titular lead role in Norma Rae. Despite Murphy's Romance being well-received (it was nominated for two Academy Awards), it was five years before another Frank and Ravetch screenplay was shot; hired by Martin Ritt, the couple wrote the screenplay for Stanley & Iris (1990), loosely based on the novel Union Street by British writer Pat Barker.
Frank Jr. died at her home in Los Angeles on January 28, 2020, at age 96.
Ten months after the release of Stanley & Iris, on December 8, 1990, Martin Ritt died. Together, the trio of Frank, Ravetch and Ritt had collaborated on eight films and achieved considerable successes. As well as being the last film Ritt worked on, Stanley & Iris also marked the end of Frank and Ravetch's writing careers.
In a career spanning 43 years and 21 film productions, Harriet Frank Jr. won 4 awards and received many more nominations, sharing them all with her husband. As well as with her husband and Martin Ritt, Frank collaborated extensively with actors such as Paul Newman, writing for three of his film appearances (The Long, Hot Summer, Hud, and Hombre).
Many of their films not only received critical acclaim upon release in the form of awards (Norma Rae and Stanley & Iris), but those such as Hud (1963) are considered classics of their genres. The legacy of Harriet Frank Jr. is today considered inseparable with that of her husband, Ravetch.
Awards and nominations
|1964||Academy Award||Nominated||Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium||Hud|
|1973||Edgar Award||Nominated||Best Motion Picture||The Carey Treatment|
|1980||Golden Globe Award||Nominated||Best Screenplay – Motion Picture||Norma Rae|
|1963||New York Film Critics Circle Awards||Won||Best Screenplay||Hud|
|1972||Western Heritage Awards||Won||Theatrical Motion Picture||The Cowboys|
|1959||Writers Guild of America Award||Nominated||Best Written American Drama||The Long Hot Summer|
|1964||Won||Best Written American Drama||Hud|
|1970||Nominated||Best Comedy Adapted from Another Medium||The Reivers|
|1975||Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium||Conrack|
|1980||Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium||Norma Rae|
|1988||Won||Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement|