This is the story of two men: Harry Kurnitz and his close companion, Marco Page. Both men arrived in Hollywood with dreams of glory and grandeur, but also knew that the best way to make it was to work hard and work fast. Before they were done, the two would be involved in over thirty movies and fifty books.
Harold Kurnitz was born January 5, 1908, in Hell's Kitchen in New York City. He earned a degree in journalism and became a reporter right as the Great Depression began taking effect in America. His nose to the grindstone approach led to many award-winning stories about the plight of the poor and downtrodden. At the same time, a young enterprising man named Marco Page began writing detective stories. He churned out pulp novels and dimestore fictionals for a number of small publishers in New York. Finally, in 1937, his story Fast Company was optioned by MGM.
Harry wrote the screenplay for Fast Company, and then two subsequent Marco Page novels were adapted, Fast and Loose, and Fast and Furious. In each of these movies, writing credit went to Page. Finally in 1940, Harry sold a screenplay of his own, and Marco was relegated to the novels on the side, with Kurnitz becoming the name in the spotlight.
From 1940 to 1957, Harry helped adapt, develop, or create 24 movie scripts, including the Errol Flynn classic Adventures of Don Juan, Danny Kaye's much lauded The Inspector General, and the Billy Wilder adaptation of the Agatha Christie novel Witness for the Prosecution. He also became close friends with the Marx brothers, who helped him find an agent and sell his first script. At the same time, Marco Page continued to shell out detective novels, some more well-received than others.
In 1946, Kurnitz's life was affected like so many others by the infamous Hollywood blacklist. Kurnitz was a card-carrying member of the Communist party, and this essentially forced him into exile in Europe for the next ten years. However he continued to output work for the big screen, and Marco continued to publish stories in the United States.
By 1957, Kurnitz had grown tired of Hollywood and moved back to his old haunt of Brooklyn. Here he began writing plays for Broadway. One of them, A Shot In The Dark was later adapted by Blake Edwards for the popular Inspector Closeau/Pink Panther series. He didn't completely lose his roots in Hollywood, continuing to provide spot writing for such films as John Wayne's Hatari!, the gender-bender classic Goodbye Charlie, and the Audrey Hepburn/Peter O'Toole comic caper How to Steal a Million.
Perhaps Kurnitz's greatest gift was in 1965 when he founded the Harry Kurnitz Foreign Student Creative Writing Awards. The award (given out in form of a grant scholarship from UCLA) was presented to the best screenplay submitted by an author whose primary language was not English. This award was due to Harry's travels in Europe and meeting many creative people abroad whose work needed a larger and more receptive audience.
Harry passed away March 18, 1968 in Los Angeles, but his award lives on to this day, giving life and opportunity to those writers who overcome the obstacle of a new language to tell the wonderful stories of tomorrow - much like the mysterious Marco Page, who also vanished in the spring of 1968, perhaps to live forever in the small hotels and cafes of Europe, the ones his good friend Harry Kurnitz frequented many years before.