Thu 13 Jun 2019
Award-winning journalist and media historian Julien Gorbach discusses his new biography THE NOTORIOUS BEN HECHT: ICONOCLAST WRITER AND MILITANT ZIONIST, about the life and times of screenwriter Ben Hecht, known as the "Shakespeare of Hollywood."
Ben Hecht solidified his legend with the 1932 Howard Hughes epic "Scarface" and throughout his illustrious career would rub shoulders with some of the era's biggest names. He drew the admiration of Ezra Pound and clowned around with Harpo Marx. He wrote "Notorious" and "Spellbound" with Alfred Hitchcock and ghosted Marilyn Monroe's memoirs. He launched the career of Marlon Brando and hosted Jack Kerouac and Salvador Dalí on his television talk show.
And when his Jewish bosses at the movie studios refused to make films about the Nazi menace during the '30s and '40s, he leveraged his talents and celebrity connections to orchestrate a spectacular one-man publicity campaign and mobilize pressure on the Roosevelt administration for an Allied plan to rescue Europe's Jews. Then, after the war, Hecht became notorious, embracing the labels "gangster" and "terrorist" in partnering with the mobster Mickey Cohen to smuggle weapons to Palestine in the fight for a Jewish state and plotting revolt with Menachem Begin.
"The Notorious Ben Hecht: Iconoclast Writer and Militant Zionist" is a biography of this great twentieth-century writer that treats his activism during the 1940s as the central drama of his life. It details the story of how Hecht earned admiration as a humanitarian and vilification as an extremist at this pivotal moment in history. Any lover of modern history who follows this journey through the worlds of gangsters, reporters, Jazz Age artists, Hollywood stars, movie moguls, political radicals, and guerrilla fighters will never look at the twentieth century in the same way again.
JULIEN GORBACH is an assistant professor in the School of Communications at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Before becoming a professor, he was a newspaper reporter in New York, Boston, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Florida. As a freelance writer, he's been published in the Boston Globe, the Boston Phoenix, Time Out New York, the New Orleans Gambit, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and other publications. He earned a BA in Literature from Sarah Lawrence College in 1992, an MA in Print Journalism from New York University in 1999 and a PhD in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2013.