First president and co-founder of the Screen Writers Guild, John Howard Lawson was one of the first screenwriters to write for talkies. He was active from 1928 until 1947, when he became one of the blacklisted “Hollywood Ten,” indicted for contempt of Congress, found guilty, and jailed for one year.
“I’m much more completely blacklisted than the others. I’m much more notorious and I’m very proud of that,” The New York Times quoted Lawson as saying. “It had much to do with the fact that I helped to organize the Guild and played a leading role in progressive activities until 1947.”
Lawson’s best known scripts include Algiers (1938), the Academy Award-nominated Blockade (1938), Action in the North Atlantic (1943), Sahara (1943), Counter-Attack (1945), and Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman (1947). He also wrote plays, articles, and letters to newspapers, often discussing film aesthetics; he wrote the film theory book Film: The Creative Process. In New York City, he co-founded and was director of the New Playwrights Theater, where he had nine plays produced, including Success Story.
He was born in New York City on September 25, 1894, graduated from Williams College, and briefly worked as a cable editor for Reuters Press. Then, he went overseas to serve in World War I as an ambulance driver in Italy and France. He died in San Francisco on August 11, 1977.