Howard E. Koch (December 12, 1901 – August 17, 1995) was an American playwright and screenwriter who was blacklisted by the Hollywood movie studio bosses in the 1950s.
Born in New York City, New York, Koch grew up in Kingston, New York and was a graduate of St. Stephen's College (later renamed Bard College) and Columbia Law School.
Career as writer
Writing for stage and radio
While practicing law in Hartsdale, New York, he began to write plays. Great Scott (1929), Give Us This Day (1933), and In Time to Come (1941) were produced on Broadway.
His radio work in the 1930s as a writer for the CBS Mercury Theater of the Air included the Orson Welles radio drama The War of the Worlds (1938), which caused nationwide panic among some listeners for its documentary-like portrayal of an invasion of spaceships from Mars. Koch later wrote a play about the panic, Invasion From Mars, which was later adapted into the 1975 TV movie, The Night That Panicked America, in which actor Joshua Bryant plays Koch.
Screenwriting and blacklisting
Koch began writing for Hollywood studios. His first accepted screenplay was made into a 1940 film. Koch contributed to the popular film Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart, which he co-scripted with writers Julius and Philip Epstein in 1942, and for which he received an Academy Award in 1944. He also wrote Shining Victory (1941), and Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948), his favorite screenplay.
In 1943, at the request of Jack L. Warner of Warner Bros., Koch wrote the screenplay for Mission to Moscow (1943). The movie subsequently spawned controversy because of its positive portrayal of Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union. After the war, Koch was fired by Jack Warner after Koch was denounced as a Communist. He was then criticized by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) for his outspoken leftist political views. Koch was blacklisted by Hollywood in 1951.
After being blacklisted, Koch moved with his wife Anne (an accomplished writer in her own right) and their family to Europe and eventually took up residence in the United Kingdom with other blacklisted writers where they wrote for five years for film and television (The Adventures of Robin Hood among them) under the pseudonyms "Peter Howard" and "Anne Rodney". In 1956, they returned to the United States and settled in Woodstock, New York, where he continued to write plays and books and remained actively committed to progressive political and social justice causes.
Howard Koch died in 1995 in Kingston, New York.