Robert Rossen


Robert Rossen (March 16, 1908 – February 18, 1966) was an American playwright, screenwriter, film director, and producer whose film career spanned almost three decades. After directing and writing for the stage in New York, Rossen moved to Hollywood in 1937. From there, he worked as a screenwriter for Warner Bros. until 1941, and then interrupted his career to serve until 1944 as the chairman of the Hollywood Writers Mobilization, a body to organize writers for the effort in World War II. In 1945, he joined a picket line against Warner Bros. 

Films written at Warner Bros. include Lloyd Bacon’s Marked Woman (1937), with Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Lola Lane, Isabel Jewell, Rosalind Marquis, Mayo Methot, Jane Bryan, Eduardo Ciannelli, and Allen Jenkins; Mervin LeRoy’s They Won’t Forget (1937), with Claude Rains, Gloria Dickson, Edward Norris, and Lana Turner; Racket Busters (1938), with Bogart, George Brent, and Gloria Dickson; Lewis Seiler’s Dust Be My Destiny (1939), with John Garfield, Priscilla Lane, and Alan Hale Sr.; Raoul Walsh’s The Roaring Twenties (1939), with James Cagney, Priscilla Lane, Bogart, and Gladys George; A Child Is Born (1939), with Geraldine Fitzgerald, Jeffrey Lynn, Gladys George, Gale Page, Spring Byington, and Johnnie Davis; Michael Curtiz‘s The Sea Wolf (1941), with Ida Lupino, Edward G. Robinson, Garfield, and Alexander Knox; Anatole Litvak’s Out of the Fog (1941), with Garfield, Lupino, and Thomas Mitchell; Blue in the Night (1941), with Priscilla Lane, Richard Whorf, Betty Field, Lloyd Nolan, Elia Kazan, and Jack Carson; and Lewis Milestone’s Edge of Darkness (1943), with Errol Flynn, Ann Sheridan, Walter Huston, and Nancy Coleman.

After making one film for Hal B. Wallis’s newly formed production company, Rossen made one for Columbia Pictures, another for Wallis and most of his later films for his own companies, usually in collaboration with Columbia. These included The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946), with Barbara Stanwyck, Van Heflin, Lizabeth Scott, and Kirk Douglas; and Lewis Allen’s Desert Fury (1947), with John Hodiak, Lizabeth Scott and Burt Lancaster. He made his directorial debut with Johnny O’Clock (1947), with Dick Powell, Evelyn Keyes, Lee J. Cobb, and Jeff Chandler; followed by Body and Soul (1947), with Garfield, Lilli Palmer, Hazel Brooks, Anne Revere, and William Conrad.

For his film All The King’s Men (1949), with with Broderick Crawford, John Ireland, Mercedes McCambridge, and Joanne; Rossen won the Academy Award for Best Picture, plus there were wins Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress, while Rossen was nominated for Best Director. He also won the Golden Globe for Best Director and Best Picture. This was followed by The Brave Bulls (1951), with Mel Ferrer, Miroslava, Anthony Quinn, Eugene Iglesias, José Torvay and Charlita. He was a member of the American Communist Party from 1937 to about 1947, ending all relations with the Party in 1949. He was twice called before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), in 1951 and in 1953. He exercised his Fifth Amendment rights at his first appearance, refusing to state whether he had ever been a Communist. As a result, he found himself blacklisted by Hollywood studios as well as unable to renew his passport. At his second appearance he named 57 people as current or former Communists and his blacklisting ended. In order to repair finances he produced his next film, Mambo (1954) – with Silvana Mangano, Michael Rennie , and Vittorio Gassman – in Italy

His next films were Alexander the Great (1956), with Richard Burton, Fredric March, Claire Bloom, Danielle Darrieux; Island in the Sun (1957), with James Mason, Harry Belafonte, Joan Fontaine, Joan Collins, Dorothy Dandridge, Michael Rennie, Stephen Boyd, Patricia Owens, John Justin, Diana Wynyard, John Williams, and Basil Sydney; They Came Cordura (1959), with Gary Cooper, Rita Hayworth, Van Heflin and Tab Hunter; The Hustler (1961), with Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie, and George C. Scott; and Lilith (1964), with Warren Beatty, Jean Seberg, Peter Fonda, Kim Hunter, Anne Meacham, Jessica Walter, Gene Hackman, and James Patterson.

Each review will be linked to the title below.

(*seen originally in theaters)

(**seen rereleased in theaters)

  • Marked Woman (1937) – directed by Lloyd Bacon & Michael Curtiz (uncredited) – co-writer
  • They Won’t Forget (1937) – directed by Mervyn LeRoy – co-writer
  • Fools for Scandal (1938) – directed by Mervyn LeRoy – uncredited writer
  • Racket Busters (1938) – directed by Lloyd Bacon – co-writer
  • Heart of the North (1938) – directed by Lewis Seiler – uncredited co-writer
  • Dust Be My Destiny (1939) – directed by Lewis Seiler – writer
  • The Roaring Twenties (1939) – directed by Raoul Walsh – co-writer
  • A Child Is Born (1939) – directed by Lloyd Bacon – writer
  • Flight from Destiny (1941) – directed by Vincent Sherman – uncredited writer
  • The Sea Wolf (1941) – directed by Michael Curtiz – writer
  • Out of the Fog (1941) – directed by Anatole Litvak – co-writer
  • Blues in the Night (1941) – directed by Anatole Litvak – writer
  • Edge of Darkness (1943) – directed by Lewis Milestone – writer
  • Rhapsody in Blue (1945) – directed by Irving Rapper – uncredited writer
  • A Walk in the Sun (1945) – directed by Lewis Milestone – writer
  • The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) – directed by Lewis Milestone – writer
  • Johnny O’Clock (1947) – director, writer
  • Desert Fury (1947) – directed by Lewis Allen – co-writer
  • Body and Soul (1947) – director
  • The Accused (1948) – directed by William Dieterle – uncredited writer
  • The Undercover Man (1949) – directed by Joseph H. Lewis – producer
  • All the King’s Men (1949) – director, writer
  • The Brave Bulls (1951) – director
  • Mambo (1954) – director, co-writer
  • Alexander the Great (1956) – director, writer
  • Island in the Sun (1957) – director
  • They Came to Cordura (1959) – director, co-writer
  • The Hustler (1961) – director, co-writer
  • Billy Budd (1962) – directed by Peter Ustinov – uncredited writer
  • The Cool World (1963) – directed by Shirley Clarke – based on his play
  • Lilith (1964) – director, writer