John Lee Mahin
Date of Birth
Jan 01, 1902
Birth Place:
Evanston, IL

Biography

The son of an advertising man, John Lee Mahin's first ambition was to be a playwright. Mahin spent a season as an actor with the Provincetown Playhouse before deciding upon a career in journalism. While attending Harvard, he secured a job as movie critic for publisher William Randolph Hearst's Boston American, a job that abruptly came to an end when Mahin slammed Hearst's "protégé," actress Marion Davies. Undaunted, Mahin went on to write for several New York dailies. In 1931, he was invited by Ben Hecht to come to Hollywood and try his luck as a screenwriter. Mahin spent most of his subsequent movie career at MGM. He was a personal favorite of actor Clark Gable and director Victor Fleming, frequently contributing additional dialogue or rewrites to their films without screen credit. In 1933, he helped organize the Screen Writers' Guild, but after becoming disenchanted with the leftist leanings of many of his colleagues, he left the SWG to join the studio-sanctioned Screen Playwrights union. His outspoken conservatism came to the forefront during the "blacklist" era, a fact that has earned him the vilification of many latter-day film historians. In 1959, he formed a production company with fellow screenwriter Martin Rackin: the results of this collaboration were two of John Wayne's best films, The Horse Soldiers (1959) and North to Alaska (1960). Closing out his film career in 1966, Mahin moved into television; his last project was The Jimmy Stewart Show, a one-season sitcom from 1971. Martin Rackin earned Oscar nominations for his work on 1937's Captains Courageous and 1957's Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (his personal favorite), and in 1957 was honored with the SWG's Laurel Award for lifetime achievement. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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