Ben Hecht: Journalist/Author
At 16 years old, Ben Hecht left the University of Wisconsin for Chicago with fifty dollars in his pocket. By a twist of fate, the young Hecht was introduced to the publisher of the Chicago Daily Journal who hired the teenager within hours of meeting him. While Hecht spent the first year sneaking into homes of crime victims and capturing photographs of their injuries of grief to appear in the next day’s paper, he proved himself to be an asset to the paper and he was brought on as a full-time reporter at seventeen.
After World War I, Hecht was sent to Berlin to serve as a foriegn correspondent for the Chicago Daily News. He reported on the movement and aftermath of the war, which inspired his first novel, Erik Dorn. Upon his return to the States in 1919, he was back on the streets covering crime and immersing himself in the literary scene.
In 1921, Hecht pioneered the column A Thousand and One Afternoons in Chicago where he chronicled his experiences wandering the city and palling around with normal people. Hecht’s A Thousand and One Afternoons column painted Chicago in a new, different light and was like a breath of fresh air to readers of bustling city life in the early 1900s.
That same year, Hecht and Charles MacArthur, his collaborator and friend, famously broke “The Case of the Ragged Stranger.” Their investigative work led to the trial and execution of Carl Wanderer, a war hero who shot himself and killed his pregnant wife in a staged robbery-gone-wrong.
By the time he was 30, he was exhausted with the journalism scene. In 1924, Hecht left Chicago for New York City to live with his wife-to-be Rose Caylor. In New York he wrote the play The Front Page (1928) with Charles MacArthur, forever influencing the public’s perception of newspaper men. It was there in New York City where he received a life changing telegram from his friend Herman Mankiewicz offering him a job in California writing for Paramount Pictures.
Novels, Short Stories, Essays, and poetry
1921– Erik Dorn
1922– Fantazius Mallare, A Thousand and One Afternoons in Chicago, Gargoyles
1923– The Florentine Dagger
1924– The Kingdom of Evil: A Continuation of the Journal of Fantazius Mallare, Humpty Dumpty,
1926– Count Bruga, Broken Necks
1928– The Front Page
1931– A Jew in Love, A Champion From Far Away
1937– To Quito and Back
1939– A Book of Miracles
1941– 1001 Afternoons in New York
1943– Miracle in the Rain
1944– A Guide for the Bedevilled, I Hate Actors!
1945– The Collected Stories of Ben Hecht
1947– The Cat that Jumped Out of the Story
1954– A Child of the Century
1957– Charlie: The Improbable Life and Times of Charles MacArthur
1959– The Sensualists, Treasury of Ben Hecht Collected Stories and Other Writings
1963– Gaily, Gaily
1964– Letters from Bohemia
1974– My Story: Marilyn Monroe (ghostwriter)