What do the following filmmakers have in common: Victor Fleming, John Ford, Henry Hathaway, Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock, Ernst Lubitsch, Lewis Milestone, Otto Preminger, Josef von Sternberg, George Stevens, Charles Vidor, King Vidor, Orson Welles and William Wyler? I know, it’s a toughie — and it isn’t much less tough if you consult IMDb. But the answer is that all of them made pictures from scripts that had been worked on by the same man. His name was Ben Hecht and, even today, 125 years after his birth, he’s regarded as the greatest screenwriter the movies ever had.
If you want some idea of how great that is, consider that between 1937 and 1940 Hecht wrote, co-wrote or rewrote more than 20 pictures — among them Gone With the Wind, His Girl Friday, It’s a Wonderful Life, Wuthering Heights, Nothing Sacred, The Goldwyn Follies and Gunga Din.