Another connection to Mrs. Parker and the Algonquin has passed away. Two-time Academy Award-winning screenwriter Ring Lardner Jr., who had been the last surviving member of the blacklisted “Hollywood Ten,” died of cancer Oct. 31 at his Manhattan apartment. He was 85.
Lardner won Oscars for best original screenplay with Michael Kanin for the 1942 romantic comedy Woman of the Year and for material based on another medium for the 1970 Korean War satire MASH. He was also the last surviving son of well-known writer and humorist Ring Lardner, a friend of the Algonquin Round Table.
He served nine months in federal prison in 1950 after being convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing three years earlier to tell the House Un-American Activities Committee if he had ever been a member of the Communist Party.
The Chicago native spent most of his childhood in Greenwich, Conn., and Great Neck, Long Island, amid such literary and journalistic notables as Grantland Rice, Heywoud Broun, H.L. Mencken, Dorothy Parker and Alexander Woollcott.
His first work as a screenwriter came in the mid 1930s rewriting scenes for David O. Selznick in A Star Is Born starring Frederic March and Janet Gaynor. Coincidentally, Mrs. Parker and Alan Campbell were nominated for an Academy Award for the film for their screenplay contribution.
How important was Lardner Jr. to the cause of the First Amendment? Very. As D.H. Kerby wrote in the Los Angeles Times upon his death: “The Hollywood 10 were courageous individuals who refused to cooperate with a witch hunt when they could have saved themselves from prison merely by pointing the finger at their associates and identifying them as Communist Party members. The protest at last year’s Academy Awards of the recognition of the work of Elia Kazan, who did name names, shows that many of us still regard cooperation with blacklisters as shameful.”