Playwrights Who Became Screenwriters

Did you know that Pulitizer Prize winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire is the screenwriter for the remake of the horror movie Poltergeist?  That interesting factoid started me thinking of other writers who began their careers as scribes for the stage and then tried their luck in Hollywood.  It's no secret that the motion picture industry pays a lot more than live theater.  Here's the list I compiled. In parentheses are the names of some of the plays they wrote, followed by a selection of the films they worked on as screenwriters.

Woody Allen (Don't Drink the Water; Play It Again, Sam)
What's New Pussycat?, Take the Money and Run, Bananas, Sleeper, Love and Death, Annie Hall, Manhattan, Stardust Memories, Zelig, Broadway Danny Rose, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Hannah and Her Sisters, Radio Days, Manhattan Murder Mystery, Bullets Over Broadway, Mighty Aphrodite, Everyone Says I Love You, Deconstructing Harry, Celebrity, Match Point, Midnight in Paris, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, To Rome With Love, Blue Jasmine

Paddy Chayefsky (Middle of the Night, The Tenth Man, Gideon, The Passion of Josef D)
Marty, The Goddess, The Americanization of Emily, The Hospital, Network

Noel Coward (Hay Fever, Private Lives, Cavalcade, Blithe Spirit, Waiting in the Wings)
In Which We Serve

Moss Hart (You Can't Take It With You, The Man Who Came to Dinner)
Gentleman's Agreement, Hans Christian Andersen, A Star Is Born

Ben Hecht (The Front Page)
Underworld, Scarface, Viva Villa!, Nothing Sacred, Gunga Din, Let Freedom Ring, Wuthering Heights, It's a Wonderful World, Angels Over Broadway, Comrade X, The Black Swan, Spellbound, Specter of the Rose, Kiss of Death, Whirlpool, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Monkey Business, Ulysses, The Indian Fighter, The Iron Petticoat, A Farewell to Arms, Circus World

William Inge (Come Back, Little Sheba; Picnic; Bus Stop)
Splendor in the Grass, All Fall Down

George S. Kaufman (You Can't Take It With You, The Man Who Came to Dinner)
Roman Scandals, A Night at the Opera

Neil LaBute (In the Company of Men, The Shape of Things, Fat Pig, reasons to be pretty, Reasons to Be Happy)
Your Friends and Neighbors, Possession, The Wicker Man, Some Velvet Morning, Dirty Weekend

Mike Leigh (The Box Play, Bleak Moments, Abigail's Party, Ecstasy, Greek Tragedy)
High Hopes, Life Is Sweet, Secrets and Lies, Career Girls, Topsy-Turvy, All or Nothing, Vera Drake, Happy-Go-Lucky, Another Year, Mr. Turner

David Lindsay-Abaire (Rabbit Hole)
Robots, Inkheart, Rise of the Guardians, Oz the Great and Powerful, Poltergeist

David Mamet (Glengarry Glen Ross, American Buffalo, Oleanna)
The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Verdict, The Untouchables, We're No Angels, Homicide, Hoffa, The Edge, The Spanish Prisoner, Wag the Dog, Hannibal, Heist

Arthur Miller (The Crucible, Death of a Salesman, All My Sons, An Enemy of the People)
The Misfits

Harold Pinter (The Room, The Birthday Party, The Dumb Waiter, Betrayal, The Hothouse)
The Servant, The Pumpkin Eater, The Quiller Memorandum, Accident, The Go-Between, The Last Tycoon, The French Lieutenant's Woman, The Handmaid's Tale, The Comfort of Strangers, The Trial, Sleuth

John Patrick Shanley (Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, Italian American Reconciliation, Doubt)
Five Corners, Moonstruck, The January Man, Joe Versus the Volcano, Alive, We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story, Congo

Sam Shepard (True West, Fool for Love, Buried Child)
Far North, Silent Tongue, Don't Come Knocking

Neil Simon (The Odd Couple, The Sunshine Boys, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Laughter on the 23rd Floor)
California Suite, The Out-of-Towners, Murder by Death, The Goodbye Girl, The Lonely Guy, The Heartbreak Kid

Tom Stoppard (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, The Real Thing)
The Romantic Englishwoman, The Human Factor, Brazil, Empire of the Sun, The Russia House, Billy Bathgate, Shakespeare in Love, Anna Karenina

Preston Sturges (The Guinea Pig, Strictly Dishonorable, Child of Manhattan)
Thirty Day Princess, Easy Living, Never Say Die, Remember the Night, The Lady Eve, Sullivan's Travels, The Palm Beach Story, Hail the Conquering Hero, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek

Gore Vidal (The Best Man)
The Catered Affair, Suddenly Last Summer, Caligula

Tennessee Williams (The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Night of the Iguana)
Baby Doll, The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond

I didn't include writers who began as prose writers or novelists and then tried their luck in Hollywood, such as Ernest Hemingway or John Steinbeck. I also didn't include playwrights, such as Tracy Letts or Eric Bogosian, whose screenwriting work was mostly adaptations of their own stageplays. Also, I avoided screenwriters like Paul Schrader, who established themselves in cinema first and then wrote for the stage.

There you have it.

Comments