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Garson Kanin Edit Profile

writer , Film director

Garson Kanin was an American writer and director.

Background

Kanin, Garson was born on November 24, 1912 in Rochester, New York, United States. Son of David and Sadie (Levine) Kanin.

Education

Educaed at James Madison High School, New York, American Academy, of Dramatic Arts, New York.

Career

Kanin passed through the film world in an unusual direction, from director to writer, enjoying the reputation of perverse smartness. At his best in sophisticated comedy based on thorough character studies and unashamed of staginess, Kanin never concealed his liking for a witty élite scheming against the grain of a fatuous industry. His record vindicated that approach and if this account of the making of Adam’s Rib seems cozy, it should be remembered that comedies of sexual antagonism do not come much better:

The original script was bought by Metro for the highest price they had ever paid for an original: they paid $175,000. Then all sorts of things happened, like getting the supporting players together, and it was really us, as a little unit, doing everything. We worked on the script with Dore Schary and Kate and Spence; we got Orry Kelley in on the clothes; Kate went out and got Cole Porter to write the song. Ruth [R. Gordon, Kanin’s wife] and Г went to work with the designer, Cedric Gibbons, and one day he looked up at us and said, “You know, this is an historic day’. I’ve been at the studio twenty-five years, and this is the first time writers have ever been in my office. . .

It was because the work of the writer and director was so often at the mercy of insensitive front office scissors that Kanin lost heart for directing. But he could argue that, as a writer, he had a greater effect upon finished films because of his ability to slip a project past the blind side of men like Harry Cohn. He had begun in the theatre, working with George Abbott, and then joined Samuel Goldwyn in a vague but humiliating role—“he called me Thalberg all the time.’ He left and went to RKO, where he directed his pre-war films. Although he never took any script credit, they show his growing skill at satirical, domestic comedy: The Great Man Votes was one of the more worthwhile pictures John Barrymore made as he sank into alcohol; Bachelor Mother is a good Norman Krasna script with David Niven and Ginger Rogers; while Mi/ Favorite Wife, with Can- Grant and Irene Dunne, was directed by Kanin after Leo McCarey had been involved in a road accident. Not as boisterous as McCarey or as dry as Hawks, it is still enjovable and a touchstone for Kanin’s own work.

During the war he went to Europe, worked with Carol Reed on The True Glory, and at the same time wrote the plav Born Yesterday. Its Broadway success and Adam's Rib (49, George Cukor) capitalized on his first script (written with Ruth Gordon): A Double Life (48, Cukor). Perhaps the Broadway success, and his harmony with Tracy and Hepburn, explained the influence he had at this time. He and Gordon appear to have been instrumental in devising the Judv Holliday character, and in seeing that Holliday herself should bring it to life. They scripted Cukor's film of Born Yesterday (50), The Marrying Kind (52, Cukor), and Pat and Mike (52, Cukor). After that, and without Ruth Gordon, he scripted It Should Happen to You (54, Cukor); The Girl Can't Help It (56, Frank Tashlin); High Time (59, Blake Edwards); and The Rat Race (60, Robert Mulligan).

His 1969 return as a director suggested a man who had outlived his time. Indeed, his memoir, Tracy and Hepburn, published in 1971, is glazed with his own nostalgia for one vivid decade. At this distance, it is hard to see him as the most talented member of that group, but there are situations that call for go-betweens: if it was Adam and Eve that played the main parts, it still needed someone with the wit to see that shifting a rib would set them in motion.

His book Moviola, published in 1979, was turned into a television mini-series (80, John Erman). In the same year, he and Ruth Gordon cowrote a TV movie, Hardhat and Legs (Lee Philips).

Works

Membership

Served to captain Army of the United States, 1941-1945. Member American Society of Composers, American Federation of television and Radio Artists, Society Stage Directors and Choreographers, Directors Guild American, Writers Guild American West, Dramatists Guild (council emeritus), Academy Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Authors League (president), Authors Guild, Actors Fund, Actors Equity, The Players Club (emeritus vice president), Century Association (New York City), New York Athletic Club.

Connections

Married 1st Kutn Gordon in 1942 (died in 1985), 2nd Marian Seldes in 1990.

father:
David

mother:
Sadie (nee Levine) Kanin

spouse:
Kutn Gordon