Harold Kurnitz, also known as Marco Page, was an American playwright, screenwriter, and novelist. Born on January 5th of 1909, in Hell’s Kitchen in New York City, United States. Hell’s Kitchen was where a large underclass of immigrants found their first homes and jobs in America. A rather nasty multiple murder in the area in 1881 prompted New York Times to give Hell’s Kitchen its name.
Kurnitz grew up in Philadelphia and went off to Pennsylvania to attend the University of Pennsylvania and earned a degree in journalism as a book and music reviewer for The Philadelphia Record in 1930. In his spare time he wrote fiction. He became a reporter right as the Great Depression began to spread throughout the United States. Reporting on the plight of the poor and downtrodden in a nose to the grindstone approach led to many award-winning stories.
In 1937 Kurnitz wrote a mystery novel called Fast Company, about a married rare-book dealers who try to solve a murder case, under the pen name Marco Page. He soon went to Hollywood to write a screenplay adaptation to the novel in 1938.
Harry Kurnitz married Eileen Tatlock-Miller in 1941 till 1944.
The years that followed Fast Company were sensational and yet ending with a blacklist. From 1940 to 1957 Kurnitz wrote more than forty movie scripts. Many of these scripts includes: Fast and Furious, 1939; The Shadow of the Thin Man, 1941; See Here, Private Hargrove, 1944; Something in the Wind, 1947; One Touch of Venus, 1948; Adventures of Don Juan, 1949; A Kiss in the Dark, 1949; The Inspector General, 1949; Land of the Pharaohs, 1955; Witness for the Prosecution, 1957; Once More with Feeling, 1960; Hatari!, story only, 1962; Goodbye Charlie, 1964; and How to Steal a Million, 1966.
Kurnitz received an Academy Award nomination for his original screenplay for What Next, Corporal Hargrove?, 1945, and a Tony nomination for the book of the Broadway musical The Girl Who Came to Supper, 1964.
During this time World War II had commenced, which soon led to the infamous Hollywood blacklist, the mid-twentieth-century list of screenwriters, actors, directors, musicians, and other U.S. entertainment professionals who were denied employment in the field because of their political beliefs or associations, real or suspected toward the American Communist Party. “Kurnitz was a card-carrying member of the Communist party, and this essentially forced him into exile in Europe for the next ten years. However he continued to output work for the big screen, and as Marco, continued to publish stories in the United States.” (kthejoker)
In 1954 Kurnitz wrote his first playwright, Reclining Figure, a comedy about painters and their patrons and the tricks of the dealers and collectors who prey on them. He soon wrote the hit comedy, Once More, With Feeling!, 1958; High Fidelity, and The Girl Who Came to Supper, 1963. Later on Kurnitz became tired of the Hollywood scene and soon moved back to Brooklyn in 1957, where he began writing plays for Broadway.
While in Brooklyn Kurnitz wrote, A Shot in the Dark in 1961, which was adapted by Blake Edwards into the popular Pink Panther series in 1964.
Still having a connection to the Hollywood scene, Kurnitz continued to write parts for films such as: Hatari!, 1962; Goodbye Charlie, 1964; and How to Steal a Million, 1966.
What could be the greatest contribution that Kurnitz has given to the world would be in 1965, when he founded the Harry Kurnitz Foreign Student Creative Writing Awards. “Along with his own passion for writing, he wanted to create opportunities for young writers, especially those whose native language was not English. In 1965, Kurnitz and his business manager, Charles Goldring, created an endowment at UCLA for these awards that have given visibility and support to the talents of dozens of UCLA students from majors across the campus and countries across the globe.” (uclaecon) This award was due to Kurnitz’s travels in Europe and meeting many creative people abroad whose work needed a larger and more receptive audience.
On March 18, 1968, Harry Kurnitz passed away from a heart attack in Los Angeles, California. At the time of his death he was working on a detective story.
Even though Kurnitz has tragically passed away his award still lives on giving an opportunity to writers who have overcome obstacles of a new language to tell the wonderful stories of tomorrow.