‘Schmucks with Underwoods’

The first rule of journalism is, as in screenwriting, “show, don’t tell.” It’s no wonder early Hollywood was populated with ex-newspapermen, who took their fastest-typewriters-in-the-West from New York and Chicago to the actual West and hired themselves out as scenarists and, when the talkies came, screenwriters. As Herman Mankiewicz wrote to Ben Hecht: “millions are to be grabbed out here and your only competition is idiots.” Less appealingly, Jack Warner referred to his hired scribes as “schmucks with Underwoods.”