Playwrights in FilmCreating a story is tricky whatever the medium. There are those that are masters of one craft and amateurs of another. For instance: Alfred Hitchcock  was the master of tension  and one of the all-time great directors, but he always hired a screenwriter for his films. The man thought in images, not words: he was a director and that was enough. In his wisdom he decided to play to his strengths. Who but the most obsessive movie expert remembers the names of those screenwriters?

There are, however, those whose skills overlap; a certain writer that can realise a story through any medium. In the heyday of the Hollywood studio system great American authors and playwrights would go to Los Angeles to make what they thought would be easy money, as Hollywood pictures were more contrived and easier to write than literature. But the movie industry has a habit of turning even the biggest egos inside out. Here we have the most infamous of these writers and their Hollywood escapades.

Arthur Miller

The man who will be forever remembered for plays like Death of a Salesman and The Crucible wrote sporadically for films between 1948 and 1961. His most popular film, The Misfits, is also the film that drove him away from screenwriting for almost 25 years. Starring his then wife Marilyn Monroe, Miller sculpted a dense and melancholy story centred on his muse Monroe. This was the actress’ last film before she divorced Miller and subsequently died, and serves as a poignant milestone in their relationship and its eventual destruction.

Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams was one of the most successful authors to try their hand at Hollywood. His credits mainly include adaptations of his stage plays, the most famous being A Streetcar Named Desire. One of the most celebrated films of the era, Streetcar proves that something as simple as good acting and a good script can make magic.

This was also the first major role for a certain Marlon Brando, who played Stanley; Williams even rewrote dialogue to prove to the audience how good Brando was. It was Streetcar director Elia Kazan, whom Williams had met on Broadway that had the best understanding of his work. Williams had a very successful career in movies with what many believe to be the definitive versions of his work, including Suddenly Last Summer and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Raymond Chandler

While he is one of the greatest crime novelists of all time, Raymond Chandler was never easy to handle.  Although he only produced three scripts, two of them: Double Indemnity and Strangers on a Train would grow into classics of American film noir.

Always an interesting character, Chandler was a tad unorthodox in his writing. What he wrote was always perfect in his eyes, which led directors Billy Wilder and Alfred Hitchcock to battle Chandler for creative control of each project. Now that is impressive  – telling filmmakers at the height of their powers that they were wrong. It was this volatile attitude and frequent falls off the wagon that doomed both Chandler’s Hollywood career and his life.

While cinema isn’t as teeming with author screenwriters as it was in the 1950s, there are still crossovers from one discipline to another. The most high profile of these is author Alex Garland, whose introduction came through with three film collaborations with director Danny Boyle. The best of these films, horror 28 Days Later and sci-fi actioner Sunshine, prove that Garland can excel in any genre. Most recently Garland wrote the screenplay for Dredd, which was not a major financial success, yet reaffirmed movie-goers faith in the character. Proof that when the transition works, quality ensues.