KRASNA, Norman






Writer and Producer. Nationality: American. Born: Queens, New York City, 7 November 1909. Education: Attended Columbia University and St. John's University Law School, New York, 1928. Military Service: 1943–45—served with the United States Army Air Force motion-picture unit. Family: Married 1) Ruth Frazee, 1940 (divorced 1950); 2) Erle Galbraith Jolson, 1951. Career: 1928–29—copyboy and assistant to drama editor, New York World ; 1929–30—drama critic, New York Evening Graphic ; 1930–31—staff member, Exhibitors Herald-World ; 1931—first play produced, Louder, Please; 1932–37—writer for Columbia: first film as writer, Hollywood Speaks ; 1937–42—writer and producer, MGM, and at Warner Bros., 1942; 1950–52—director, with Jerry Wald, Wald-Krasna Productions; then freelance writer. Awards: Academy Award for Princess O'Rourke , 1943; Writers Guild Laurel Award, 1959. Died: In Los Angeles, California, 1 November 1984.

Norman Krasna (left) with Eddie Buzzell
Norman Krasna (left) with Eddie Buzzell

Films as Writer:

1932

Hollywood Speaks (Buzzell); That's My Boy (Neill)

1933

So This is Africa (Cline); Parole Girl (Cline); Love, Honor, and Oh Baby! (Buzzell); Meet the Baron (W. Lang)

1934

The Richest Girl in the World (W. Lang)

1935

Romance in Manhattan (Roberts); Four Hours to Kill (Leisen); Hands across the Table (Leisen)

1936

Wife vs. Secretary (Brown); Fury (F. Lang)

1937

The King and the Chorus Girl ( Romance Is Sacred ) (LeRoy); As Good As Married (Buzzell); Big City (Borzage) (+ pr)

1938

The First Hundred Years (Thorpe) (+ pr); You and Me (F. Lang)

1939

Bachelor Mother (Kanin)

1940

It's a Date (Seiter)

1941

Mr. and Mrs. Smith (Hitchcock); The Devil and Miss Jones (Wood); The Flame of New Orleans (Clair); It Started with Eve (Koster)

1943

Princess O'Rourke (+ d)

1944

Bride by Mistake (Wallace); Practically Yours (Leisen)

1949

The Big Hangover (+ d + pr)

1954

White Christmas (Curtiz)

1956

Bundle of Joy (Taurog); The Ambassador's Daughter (+ d + pr)

1958

Indiscreet (Donen)

1959

Who Was That Lady? (Sidney) (+ pr)

1960

Let's Make Love (Cukor)

1961

My Geisha (Cardiff)

1963

Sunday in New York (Tewksbury)

1964

I'd Rather Be Rich (Smight)



Films as Producer:

1938

Three Loves Has Nancy (Thorpe)

1951

Behave Yourself (Beck); The Blue Veil (Bernhardt)

1952

Clash By Night (F. Lang); The Lusty Men (Ray)



Films based on Krasna's writings:

1947

Dear Ruth (Russell)

1949

John Loves Mary (Butler)

1950

Dear Wife (Haydn)

1951

Dear Brat (Seiter)



Publications

By KRASNA: plays—

Louder, Please , New York, 1932.

Small Miracle , New York, 1935.

Bachelor Mother (script), in The Best Pictures 1939–1940 , New York, 1940.

Fury (script), in Twenty Best Film Plays , edited by John Gassner and Dudley Nichols, New York, 1943.

Dear Ruth , New York, 1945.

John Loves Mary , New York, 1947.

With Groucho Marx, Time for Elizabeth , New York, 1949.

Kind Sir , New York, 1954.

Who Was That Lady I Saw You With? , New York, 1958.

Sunday in New York , New York, 1962.

Love in E-Flat , New York, 1967.

Watch the Birdie! , New York, 1969.

Bunny , New York, 1970.


By KRASNA: articles—

In The Hollywood Screenwriter , edited by Richard Corliss, New York, 1972.

Sight and Sound (London), Autumn 1985.


On KRASNA: articles—

Atkins, Irene, in American Screenwriters , edited by Robert E. Morsberger, Stephen O. Lesser, and Randall Clark, Detroit, Michigan, 1984.

Obituary in Variety (New York), 7 November 1984.

The Annual Obituary 1984 , Chicago 1985.

Film Dope (Nottingham), March 1985.

" The Ambassador's Daughter ," in Reid's Film Index (Wyong, New South Wales), no. 25, 1996.


* * *


When Hollywood producers of the 1940s demanded "sophisticated Broadway comedy," they usually meant Norman Krasna. A New York film and drama critic whose screenwriting career paralleled his other as playwright, Krasna was well placed in the early 1930s to merchandise Broadway's less louche plots to a film industry flirting with sophistication.

His specialty, the farce of misunderstanding and mistaken identity, imported from Europe a generation before and found, over decades, to be largely actor-proof, was a gift to Hollywood's lighter comedians. Miriam Hopkins could hardly fail in The Richest Girl in the World , testing suitors by posing as her own secretary, nor could Ginger Rogers flop as the shopgirl who inherits a baby in Bachelor Mother .

Cecil Parker's comment of Ingrid Bergman in Indiscreet , "There is no sincerity like a woman telling a lie," captures perfectly Krasna's relish for duplicity. His women pretend to be mothers ( Bachelor Mother , It's a Date —and the latter's remake Nancy Goes to Rio ) or elder sisters ( Dear Ruth ). A demimondaine pretends virtue in Flame of New Orleans , while a virginal Jane Fonda in Sunday in New York claims experience. Shirley MacLaine in My Geisha pretends to be Japanese. Millionaire store owner Charles Coburn in The Devil and Miss Jones pretends to be poor.

Marriage was a frequent Krasna playground. His men marry to win American citizenship for a friend's girl ( John Loves Mary ) or, as in Mr. and Mrs. Smith , think they are married but find they are not. Cary Grant in Indiscreet invents a wife to avoid entanglements, and in Who Was That Lady? , Tony Curtis hides extramarital affairs by pretending to be a spy.

Intermittently active as both producer and director, Krasna never caught fire as either. His production company, Monovale, founded in 1950, made little splash, and his sole Academy Award, for Princess O'Rourke in 1943, was not for direction but for the film's script. However, he enjoyed a revival as a writer in the new sexual climate of the 1960s. Slick and suggestive, Let's Make Love , Sunday in New York , and especially Who Was That Lady? , a domestic comedy crossed with espionage spoof, offered sturdy vehicles to minor comedians like Dean Martin, Yves Montand, and Jane Fonda.

Throughout his career, studios habitually allocated his scripts to the second string, robbing Krasna of much association with great directors, but it is debatable whether he could have risen to the challenge. Working with a Krasna plot in Mr. and Mrs. Smith , Hitchcock made one of his weakest films. In Fury , the writer did, it is true, flesh out a four-page outline into a screenplay the New York Times ' Frank Nugent called "elemental in its simplicity . . . yet an encyclopedia of lynch law," but since his collaborators were Fritz Lang and veteran crime movie writer Bartlett Cormack, credit is difficult to allocate. Of the Krasna films by great directors, only Flame of New Orleans achieved any synthesis of dialogue and style, with accomplished farceurs like Mischa Auer bouncing the lines off the langourously impassive Dietrich. Ironically, however, the film, forced on Hollywood newcomer René Clair, was one the director disliked intensely.

—John Baxter

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