Ring Lardner, Jr.
Writing Lardners

Ring Lardner, Jr.

Updated 10 January 2006

Life  |  Filmography



1915 (AUG 19): Is born, the third of four sons, to Ring and Ellis Lardner. His birth and early life are remarked upon often by Ring Sr. in his newspaper column. The example below marks his birth:

I love you, New Arrival;
I love you, No. 3
That's why I won't allow them
To name you after me.

Of course, Ring Sr. loses the naming battle, and his third son became Ringgold Wilmer Lardner, Jr.; Ring Sr. preferred "Bill."

1920: Gets his first book credit for The Young Immigrunts (see excerpt). Ring Sr. writes the book using his four-year-old son as narrator. This still confuses some book dealers.

1928-1932: Attends Phillips Academy (Andover).

1932-1934: Attends and leaves Princeton.

1933:  Has first national writing credit in the premier issue of Esquire; he is 18. 

1934: Makes trip to Soviet Union and Germany.

1935: Writes for the New York Daily Mirror (January-November); begins working for David O. Selznick in the publicity department.

1936: Becomes a member of the Communist Party. During the Depression years many Americans were looking for alternatives to capitalism, a system which had obviously failed. Communism, for many, seemed to be a humane and rational way of governing. As such, it attracted the attention of many of our nation's intellectuals.

Today, he says he doesn't regret having been a Communist, given the circumstances. About the ultimate failure of the Communist system he says:

"Communism is like Christianity. It turned out to be a very beautiful theory that has never been put into practice. Given human nature, I'm not sure it can be." ("Leftists in the Wilderness" U.S. News & World Report, 19 March 1990)

That same year, Selznick asks Lardner and a story department reader, Budd Schulberg, to come up with a satisfactory ending for A Star is Born. They do (along with some other scenes). Ring is now a screenwriter.

1937-1938: Marries Silvia Schulman, Selznick's secretary (February 1937); leaves Selznick for Warner Brothers.

1943: Wins Academy Award for Woman of the Year (Best Original Screenplay for 1942 with Michael Kanin); he cannot accept the award in person because he is working as a civilian at Ft. Lee, Virginia, on an Army picture called Rations in the Combat Zone (obviously another movie with Oscar potential).

1945:  Divorces Silvia. 

1946: Marries Frances, widow of his brother David.

1947: He is called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). The "unfriendly" witnesses called to testify (later referred to as the Hollywood Ten) decide to challenge the committee's authority for questioning them about their politics and the political affiliations of others, and to refuse to answer the committee's questions. Some in the group want to proudly proclaim their membership in the Communist Party, but it is decided that such action could lead to trouble for others who wish to keep their politics private. The idea of invoking the Fifth Amendment is considered, but it is decided that doing so would be tantamount to admitting that being a Communist is a crime. They settle on the First Amendment defense.

The questioners ask "Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?"

When Ring testifies, he upsets J. Parnell Thomas, the committee chairman, (later an inmate at the same prison as Ring) by responding,

"I could answer the way you want, Mr. Chairman, but I'd hate myself in the morning."

The crowd erupts in laughter, and the committee members erupt in anger. He is escorted from the room.

On the strategy of not answering the questions and challenging the committee Lardner now says:

"[it] turned out to be a bad idea and just made us seem to be more evasive than we were, and it didn't accomplish anything in the end."

1950-1951: Spends ten months at the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut, for contempt of Congress; writes his first novel, The Ecstasy of Owen Muir.

1954: Publishes The Ecstasy of Owen Muir.

1948-1965: Blacklisted. He continued to write either uncredited, abroad, or under a pseudonym.

Some of his work during this time includes the movie Virgin Island, and The Adventures of Robin Hood, Sir Lancelot, and The Buccaneers for British TV.

1965: His name appears in film for the first time since the blacklisting began (Cincinnati Kid).

1971: Wins Academy Award for M*A*S*H (Best Adapted Screenplay for 1970, sole credit)

Receiving the Academy Award, Lardner said:

"At long last, a pattern has been established in my life. At the end of every 28 years, I win one of these. So I will see you all again in 1999."

Also wins the Golden Globe award for M*A*S*H.

On the occasion of the silver-anniversary tribute to M*A*S*H hosted by the American Film Institute in Beverly Hills, Lardner said that the movie "may be the work I'm proudest of in life." (Entertainment Weekly 28 FEB 1996)

After the success of M*A*S*H, he was offered the opportunity to write for the TV series but declined. According to Lardner,

"Frankly, I couldn't see how you would sustain a TV series based on a war that had just a few months of action. Shows you what I know. I also didn't think Selznick should buy Gone With the Wind." (Entertainment Weekly 28 FEB 96)

1976: Publishes The Lardners: My Family Remembered.

1985: Publishes his second novel, All for Love.

1992 (10 APR): Lardner reads Woman of the Year's original, more feminist, ending at a meeting of the New York City literary group, the Writer's Voice. In the version we all see, it ends with Katharine Hepburn cooking her husband's breakfast; in the original which Louis B. Mayer objected to, Spencer Tracy's character tells Hepburn to "just be yourself."("Yesteryear's Woman" Maclean's 13 APR 92)

Late 1990s: He is interviewed and featured numerous times during the fiftieth anniversary of the HUAC hearings and completes a screenplay based on the book, The Boys of Summer. More details about that movie can be found in the archived version of "Spooldrippings."

2000:  Publishes the memoir I'd Hate Myself in the Morning
(31 OCT):  Dies. 


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If I've missed something or misrepresented something here, please let me know. It comes from a variety of sources, some contradictory.  When possible, I have used Lardner's own recollection as the final arbiter.  Though primarily film, the list also includes TV and stage work. 

A Star is Born (1937, uncredited contribution)

Nothing Sacred (1937, uncredited contribution)

The Kid From Kokomo (1939, uncredited contribution)

Meet Dr. Christian (1939; with Ian Hunter)

The Courageous Dr. Christian (1940, with Ian Hunter)

Thieves Fall Out (1941, uncredited contribution)

Arkansas Judge (1941, aka False Witness)

Woman of the Year (1942; with Michael Kanin; the first on-screen pairing of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy)

The Cross of Lorraine (1943, co-scripted)

Tomorrow the World (1944)

Laura (1944, co-scripted)

Brotherhood of Man (1945)

Cloak and Dagger (1946)

Tomorrow (1947)

Forever Amber (1947)

The Forbidden Street (a.k.a. Brittania Mews; 1948; Lardner's last credited film before the blacklist.)

Swiss Tour (1950, aka Four Days Leave, dialogue)

Up Front (1951, aka Up Front with Mauldin, uncredited)

The Big Night (1951, originally uncredited)

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1955, TV Series)

The Buccaneers (1956, TV Series, worked on pilot)

Sir Lancelot (1956, TV Series, worked on pilot)

Virgin Island (1959; under pseudonym "Philip Rush"; written with Ian Hunter)

A Breath of Scandal (1960; uncredited; Sidney Howard, who had died in 1939 was credited)

The Cardinal (1963, uncredited)

Foxy (1964, Broadway Musical)

The Cincinnati Kid (1965, first credited film since The Forbidden Street)

M*A*S*H (1970)

La Maison Sous les Arbres (1971, uncredited contribution; the movie is also known as The Deadly Trap, Death Scream, The House Under the Trees, and Unico indizio: una sciarpa gialla.)

Woman of the Year (1976), TV production based on his screenplay.

The Greatest (1977)

Semi-Tough (1977, uncredited contribution, meaning he wrote the first version, most of which was scrapped.)

Woman of the Year (1981-83):  Broadway play based on his screenplay (1942)

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