Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Millard Kaufman


Never heard of him? Me neither, but he died the other day at the ripe old age of 92. He was a longtime screenwriter with two Oscar nominations to his credit, for movies of which I have also never heard: Take the High Ground and Bad Day at Black Rock. He was considered a terrific script doctor at MGM, and also wrote a bit for television. He attached his name to the 1950 script of Gun Crazy, the film noir classic which was actually written by the blacklisted Dalton Trumbo, as a favor to their shared agent. In 1992, he officially requested that his name be removed from the film's credits and be replaced with its rightful author. His first novel ("Bowl of Cherries"), which he wrote in his late 80s, was an unexpected smash, and his second book is due out this fall.

So, Millard Kaufman seems to have been an upstanding gent and worthy of recognition, but you may wonder why he is receiving an obit in these pages. I do not, after all, write about everybody who dies, just about folks who hold some interest for me. (It is why I did not report on the death of radio pundit Paul Harvey, who died a few weeks ago. I'm sorry he's gone, of course, but am not all that interested in him or his work.)

Well, here's why. Back in 1949, Kaufman penned the script for a short animated film called Ragtime Bear, and included a character based on his near-sighted uncle. A year later, Kaufman wrote Punchy de Leon for the same character, and a star was officially born:

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