Waldo Salt


Screenwriter

About

Birth Place
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Born
October 18, 1914
Died
March 07, 1987
Cause of Death
Lung Cancer

Biography

Although his name recognition was not as great as the Hollywood Ten's Dalton Trumbo and Ring Lardner Jr., Waldo Salt took the same unpopular stand of conscience as they, refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. The former drama teacher had received his first credit as a screenwriter for "The Shopworn Girl" (1938), reportedly worked uncredited on "The Philade...

Family & Companions

Ambur Dana
Wife
Married in 1939; divorced.
Mary Davenport
Wife
Married in 1942; divorced.
Gladys Schwartz
Wife
Married in 1969; divorced.
Eve Merriam
Wife
Playwright, poet, author. Married from October 22, 1983 until his death; died of cancer on April 11, 1992 at age 75; Salt was her fourth husband.

Notes

The Sundance Film Festival annual screenwriting award is named in his honor.

Regarding the Hollywood Blacklist: "We suffered from it, and the country did. The American people have to pay for these little gang wars between politicians who are fighting over how much graft they're going to get."-- Waldo Salt, to the authors of "Contemporary Theatre, Film & Television", Volume 6

Biography

Although his name recognition was not as great as the Hollywood Ten's Dalton Trumbo and Ring Lardner Jr., Waldo Salt took the same unpopular stand of conscience as they, refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. The former drama teacher had received his first credit as a screenwriter for "The Shopworn Girl" (1938), reportedly worked uncredited on "The Philadelphia Story" (1940) and adapted "The Wild Man of Borneo" (1941) from a play by Marc Connelly and Herman Mankiewicz, among his projects, before World War II interrupted his career. Returning from overseas, he scripted "Rachel and the Stranger" (1948) and "The Flame and the Arrow" (1950), but the Hollywood blacklist would lock him out, stealing a decade from his working life. His next credit as Waldo Salt came for "Taras Bulba" (1962), adapted with Karl Tunberg from the Nikolai Gogol novel.

Salt fully hit his stride with the Oscar-winning script for John Schlesinger's "Midnight Cowboy" (1969), an emotionally shattering dramatization of James Leo Herlihy's novel. With the seamy side of NYC as backdrop for its compelling character study, this seminal picture of the 60s looks every bit as good today as when it debuted. Continuing his gritty, socially informed work, Salt received an Academy Award nomination for his contribution to Sidney Lumet's "Serpico" (1973), then reteamed with Schlesinger for "The Day of the Locust" (1975), a disturbing, depressing, absolutely fascinating look at 30s Tinseltown. Primarily an adapter of others, Salt won his second Oscar for co-scripting the original screenplay "Coming Home" (1978), a highly acclaimed post-Vietnam drama directed by Hal Ashby and starring Jane Fonda and Jon Voight.

Life Events

1934

Served as director of drama and music at Menlo School and Junior College in Menlo Park, California

1938

Received first screenwriting credit for "The Shopworn Girl" adapted from Dana Burnet's story "Private Pettigrew's Girl"

1940

Reportedly did uncredited work on the script of "The Philadelphia Story"

1941

Adapted "The Wild Man of Borneo" from play by Marc Connelly and Herman Mankiewicz

1950

Served as dialogue director in addition to scripting "The Flame and the Arrow"

1951

Provided additional dialogue for "M"

1962

First screenwriting credit post-blacklist, "Taras Bulba", co-adapted with Karl Tunberg from the Nikolai Gogol novel

1964

Collaborated on two screenplays for director Michael Anderson, "Flight from Ashiya" and "Wild and Wonderful"

1969

Won Oscar for his "Midnight Cowboy" screenplay, based on the novel by James Leo Herlihy; first collaboration with director John Schlesinger

1971

Adapted Jimmy Breslin's best-selling novel "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight" for the screen

1973

Shared Oscar nomination with Norman Wexler for the screenplay for "Serpico", based on Peter Maas' book

1975

Reteamed with Schlesinger, adapting Nathanael West's novel "The Day of the Locust"

1978

Received second Oscar for co-writing (with Robert C Jones and Nancy Dowd) the anti-war romantic drama "Coming Home"

1983

Played cameo role as a male derelict in John Landis' "Into the Night"

1990

Subject of Oscar-nominated documentary, "Waldo Salt: A Screenwriter's Journey"; aired on PBS in 1991

Videos

Movie Clip

Midnight Cowboy (1969) - Terrific Shirt Joe (Jon Voight) failing further as a hustler in New York, counting his dwindling money and meeting Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman, Voight’s fellow Best Actor nominee, in his first scene), his sticky nickname provided by Jonathan Kramer, followed by the famous mostly accidental taxi scene, in John Schlesinger’s Midnight Cowboy, 1969.
Philadelphia Story, The (1941) - I'm Not A Society Snoop First scene for James Stewart as writer Mike Connor, Ruth Hussey his colleague Liz, Cary Grant undetected as C.K. Dexter Haven, Henry Daniell as "Spy Magazine" publisher Kidd, plotting a way into Katharine Hepburn's society wedding, early in George Cukor's The Philadelphia Story, 1941.
Shopworn Angel, The (1938) - The War's In France From director H.C. Potter's WWI mobilization-and-Broadway montage, to the introduction of musical star Daisy (Margaret Sullavan) and maid Martha (Hattie McDaniel), in MGM's 1938 remake of The Shopworn Angel.
Shopworn Angel, The (1938) - Pretend You're Calling Having cooperated in pretending for his pals that they're really dating, actress Daisy (Margaret Sullavan) finds herself growing interested in soldier Bill (James Stewart), headed to the war in France, in The Shopworn Angel, 1938.
Shopworn Angel, The (1938) - Ever See A Woman Before? Lovelorn Texan doughboy Bill (James Stewart), waiting to ship out from New York, stumbles into a meeting with harried Broadway star Daisy (Margaret Sullavan), early in MGM's 1938 version of The Shopworn Angel.
Crimson Pirate, The (1952) - You May Be Overconfident Having pretended everyone on their own ship was dead, clever Burt Lancaster (title character) and his ex-circus partner Nick Cravat grapple aboard a Spanish ship of the line, surprising a baron and his consort (Leslie Bradley, Dagmar a.k.a. "Dana" Wynter) early in The Crimson Pirate, 1952.
Crimson Pirate, The (1952) - Long Live El Libre Shooting on location around the Isle of Capri in cut-rate post-war Italy, the title character (Burt Lancaster) and his mute sidekick (Nick Cravat) decide to taunt the implacable Spanish imperial soldiers, hailing a Caribbean rebel leader they haven't yet met, in The Crimson Pirate, 1952.
Crimson Pirate, The (1952) - What A Pretty Knife With sidekick Nick Cravat tending to the ship, and rescued Carribean rebel beauty Eva Bartok harassed by his crew (Ewan Roberts, Derek Tansley), Burt Lancaster (title character) plots his next move, aboard a Spanish naval ship he's taken, in The Crimson Pirate, 1952.
Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn, The (1939) - Your Right Stocking Huck (Mickey Rooney) scrambles in from just having learned he won't be promoted at school, help from Jim (Rex Ingram), then covering up with the widow Douglas (Elizabeth Risdon) and her crankier sister Miss Watson (Clara Blandick), early in MGM's The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn, 1939.
Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn, The (1939) - Murdered Left behind by his evil father who's gone into town to ransom him from the benevolent widow Douglas, Huck (Mickey Rooney) stages evidence of his own murder, in MGM's The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn, 1939.
Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn, The (1939) - I'll Smell That Free State Having sneaked into town disguised as a girl, Huck (Mickey Rooney) arrives just in time to rescue Jim (Rex Ingram) from a lynch mob, the two then heading down river, hoping to reach Illinois, in MGM's simplified version of Mark Twain's The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn, 1939.
Taras Bulba - Opening, Prologue Nice paintings, Franz Waxman music, Paul Frees narration and fancy visual effects, opening the offbeat epic Taras Bulba, 1962, starring Yul Brynner and Tony Curtis, based on Nikolai Gogol's novel.

Trailer

Coming Home (1978) -- (Original Trailer) With the Simon and Garfunkel recording of Paul Simon’s “Bookends,” the original trailer for director Hal Ashby’s Coming Home, 1978, which won Best Actor and Best Actress Academy Awards for Jon Voight and Jane Fonda, and for the original screenplay by Nancy Dowd, Waldo Salt and Robert C. Jones.
Serpico - (Original Trailer) A rookie (Al Pacino) risks his life going undercover to ferret out police corruption in Serpico (1973) directed by Sidney Lumet.
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The (1939) - (Original Trailer) Mickey Rooney is Mark Twain's classic troublemaker who helps a runaway slave (Rex Ingram) escape to the North.
Shopworn Angel, The - (Original Trailer) A showgirl (Margaret Sullavan) gives up life in the fast line for a young soldier (James Stewart) on his way to fight World War I in The Shopworn Angel (1938).
Mr. Winkle Goes To War - (Original Trailer) Henpecked husband Edward G. Robinson surprises his family by coming back from World War II a hero in Mr. Winkle Goes To War (1944).
Wild Man of Borneo, The - (Original Trailer) Frank Morgan is a turn-of-the-century con man hawking The Wild Man of Borneo (1941) in this MGM comedy.
Double Wedding - (Original Trailer) A dress designer tries to break her sister's engagement to a free-living artist in Double Wedding (1937) starring William Powell and Myrna Loy.
Flame and The Arrow, The - (Original Trailer) Burt Lancaster is an archer who takes on Hessian invaders in the swashbuckler The Flame and The Arrow (1950).
Rachel and the Stranger -- (Original Trailer) A mail-order bride (Loretta Young) finds herself attracted to a handsome drifter (Robert Mitchum) in Rachel and the Stranger (1948).

Family

William Haslem Salt
Father
Business executive, artist.
Winifred Salt
Mother
Alcoholic.
Jennifer Salt
Daughter
Actor. Born on September 4, 1944; acted in "Midnight Cowboy" (1968), scripted by father.
Deborah Salt
Daughter

Companions

Ambur Dana
Wife
Married in 1939; divorced.
Mary Davenport
Wife
Married in 1942; divorced.
Gladys Schwartz
Wife
Married in 1969; divorced.
Eve Merriam
Wife
Playwright, poet, author. Married from October 22, 1983 until his death; died of cancer on April 11, 1992 at age 75; Salt was her fourth husband.

Bibliography

Notes

The Sundance Film Festival annual screenwriting award is named in his honor.

Regarding the Hollywood Blacklist: "We suffered from it, and the country did. The American people have to pay for these little gang wars between politicians who are fighting over how much graft they're going to get."-- Waldo Salt, to the authors of "Contemporary Theatre, Film & Television", Volume 6