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He was the first screenwriter to receive an Academy Award for Original Screenplay, for the movie Underworld (1927). The number of screenplays he wrote or worked on that are now considered classics is, according to Chicagos Newberry Library, astounding, and included films such as, Scarface (1932), The Front Page, Twentieth Century (1934), Barbary Coast (1935), Nothing Sacred (1937), Some Like It Hot, Gone with the Wind, Gunga Din, Wuthering Heights, (all 1939), His Girl Friday (1940), Spellbound (1945), Notorious (1946), Monkey Business, A Farewell to Arms (1957), Mutiny on the Bounty (1962), and Casino Royale (released posthumously, in 1967). He also provided story ideas for such films as Stagecoach (1939). In 1940, he wrote, produced, and directed, Angels Over Broadway, which was nominated for Best Screenplay. In total, six of his movie screenplays were nominated for Academy Awards, with two winning.
He could produce a screenplay in two weeks and, according to his autobiography, never spent more than eight weeks on a script. Yet he was still able to produce mostly rich, well-plotted, and witty screenplays. His scripts included virtually every movie genre: adventures, musicals, and impassioned romances. But ultimately, he was best known for two specific types of film: crime thrillers and screwball comedies. Despite his success, however, he disliked the effect that movies were having on the theater, American cultural standards, and on his own creativity.
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An hour later he awoke and with a thrill of quixotic honesty placed five dollars in the moist hand of the sleeping houri, gathered his friend Keegan out of an adjoining room and emerged once more into the world with a clear head, a body full of elated memories and a laudable conviction that he had done wrong, but that what happened yesterday was not a[Pg 14] part of today and that a man can grant himself absolution from sin as easily as he can lay aside virtue.
...They were proud of having a grip on themselves, by which they meant of being able to allow their energies to evaporate secretively instead of feeling inspired to harness them to realities and run the risk of being hoisted body and soul out of their shells into a maelstrom of uncertainties and hullabaloos.
...There was nothing to say that the process of evaporation had ended and that there was left an animate husk called Howard Basine; a husk that did not mourn at the knowledge of its emptiness but that accepted instead with piety and gratitude the presence of other husks, pleased and warmed to move among their empty companionships.