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Howard Koch (Screenwriter)
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    (December 12, 1901-August 17, 1995)
    Born in New York City, New York
    Writer for Mercury Theater on the Air
    Screenwriter for the films ‘Shining Victory’ (1941), ‘Sergeant York’ (1941), ‘Casablanca’ (1942), ‘Mission to Moscow’ (1943), ‘Letter from an Unknown Woman’ (1948), ‘Journey Out of Darkness’ (1967) and ‘The Fox’ (1967)
    He was an attorney before becoming dissatisfied with his career and switching to writing.
    His adaption of H.G. Wells’s ‘War of the Worlds’ for the Mercury Theater on the Air caused a national panic (October 31, 1938).
    He frequently clashed with his co-writers on ‘Casablanca,’ <26453>Julius and Philip Epstein<26453>; he complained that the Epsteins were adding too many jokes to the script, they complained he was inserting too much politics.
    He wrote the pro-Soviet propaganda film ‘Mission to Moscow,’ which portrayed a Soviet Union evolving towards democracy and declared the victims of Stalin’s purges to be 100% guilty.
    He sold the Oscar he won for ‘Casablanca’ for $248,000 (1994).
    In his memoirs, he helped spread the urban legend that Ronald Reagan almost was the star of ‘Casablanca.’ (Warner Brothers did issue a press release naming Reagan and Ann Sheridan as leads for the upcoming film; however, producer Hal B. Wallis, who controlled casting, never considered either one for the picture.)
    He had not wanted to write ‘Mission to Moscow,’ but gave into pressure from studio head Jack Warner, who noted that the Roosevelt administration had been asking Hollywood for a movie to do for our Russian allies what ‘Mrs. Miniver’ had done for our British allies.
    A decade later, Warner appeared as a friendly witness before the House Unamerican Activities Committee and named Koch as a suspected Communist, based entirely on his having written ‘Mission to Moscow.’
    He was able to survive blacklisting by moving to England and writing for TV productions under a pseudonym.
    He auctioned off his Oscar to pay for his granddaughter attending graduate school.
    The Writers Guild of America named ‘Casablanca’ the greatest screenplay of all time (2006).

Credit: C. Fishel

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