When women wrote Hollywood

AP Photo/Abdejalil Bounhar
Rick's Cafe in 2012, the 70th anniversary tribute to the 1942 movie in Casablanca, Morocco. The elegant nightclub where Humphrey Bogart pined for Ingrid Bergman was just a set on a Warner Bros. sound stage in California, the film crew never went to North Africa.

Dear Reader,

You won’t find her name in the credits of “Casablanca,” but without her the movie might not have turned out the way it did. 

Bess Meredyth was a Hollywood writer in the early to mid-1900s, but like many women of the time, was not always given her due.

Meredyth’s husband, Michael Curtiz, directed the famed Bogart-Bergman film, and accounts from on and off set indicate Curtiz was getting pointers from his experienced wife and then passing them off to the “Casablanca” screenwriters as his own. They would intentionally ask him pointed questions to trip him up, ultimately getting him to say he was consulting her.
 
That anecdote is from the book “When Women Wrote Hollywood: Essays on Female Screenwriters in the Early Film Industry.” I heard stories of Meredyth and others in the book when I attended a panel discussion at Denver’s Pop Culture Con last month. That event is modeled after the decades-old Comic-Con International in San Diego, which kicks off next week.

This year, Comic-Con will include panels on the 50th anniversary of “Sesame Street,” and the fourth and final season of NBC’s “The Good Place,” whose impact we shared with readers last fall. The focus in San Diego will also be on superheroes and “Game of Thrones” – the type of “nerdy” fare that increasingly drives society’s shared cultural experiences, as we wrote about recently.
 
Speaking of that, with the 50th anniversary of the first walk on the moon coming up on July 20, we were curious about how movies have inspired our perceptions of the moon. We’ve included film critic Peter Rainer’s essay about that this week, along with a piece about the home in Ohio where author and cartoonist James Thurber grew up, and another that highlights how African American chefs are connecting modern Southern cuisine with its African roots.

Kim Campbell, Culture and Learning editor

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