Howard Koch
Date of Birth
Dec 12, 1902
Birth Place:
New York City, NY


Up until he was blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1950, Howard Koch was considered among Hollywood's finest screenwriters. During the 1940s, he was responsible or partially responsible for such great films as The Letter, The Sea Hawk (both 1940), Sergeant York (1941) and Casablanca (1942), for which he shared an Oscar with co-writers Julius J. Epstein and Philp G. Epstein. A native of New York City, Koch earned a bachelor's degree at Bard College and a law degree from Columbia University. He started his writing career as a playwright in the late 1920s but then turned to writing radio scripts. It was Koch who adapted H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds into Orson Welles' Mercury Theater's terrifying radio special.

Koch got into trouble with the HUAC when he wrote the pro-Soviet drama Mission to Moscow (1943) at the special request of studio heads Jack Warner and Harry Warner. When HUAC began its investigation of Hollywood folks' political backgrounds in the late '40s it was Jack Warner, the man who insisted that Koch write the script for the offending film, who called the writer a communist sympathizer. In 1950, after the completion of No Sad Songs for Me, Koch's final Hollywood film, he was blacklisted. Two years later, Koch and his wife Anne moved to Europe. Over the next year, Koch lived and worked in France, Germany and England, using the pseudonym Peter Howard. While in London, he got into trouble when the American backers of an Arthur Rank film learned Koch's identity and withdrew. Rank tore up Koch's contract. Meanwhile the U.S. Embassy attempted to obtain Koch's passport so that he could no longer work. Koch and his wife were still blacklisted when they returned stateside in 1956. Their status abruptly changed when attorney Edward Bennett Williams successfully threatened a lawsuit of $1 million to the American Legion if they continued blackballing Koch. The writer returned to Hollywood to occasionally write scripts. Though still well-crafted, it was widely believed that the scripts lacked the zest that made Koch's earlier work so special. Around 1967, he and Anne joined the counter-culture movement and settled in Woodstock, New York where he penned locally-produced plays. He published his memoirs, As Time Goes By: Memoirs of a Writer in Hollywood, New York and Europe in the late 1970s. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

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