Lamar Trotti - Writer

Writer and Producer. Nationality: American. Born: Lamar Jefferson Trotti in Atlanta, Georgia, 18 October 1900. Education: Attended the University of Georgia, Athens, degree in journalism 1921; studied writing at Columbia University, New York. Family: Married; three children. Career: 1922–25—city editor, Atlanta Georgian ; 1925–32—publicist and editor of trade magazine for Motion Picture Association of America, first in New York, then in Hollywood; 1932–52—contract writer at Fox, later at 20th Century-Fox: first film as writer, The Man Who Dared , 1933; frequent collaborator with Dudley Nichols; writer-producer after 1942. Awards: Academy Award for Wilson , 1944; Writers Guild Award for Yellow Sky ; Writers Guild Founders Award, 1970. Died: Of heart attack, 28 August 1952.

Films as Writer:


The Man Who Dared (MacFadden)


You Can't Buy Everything (Reisner); Hold That Girl (MacFadden); Wild Gold (Marshall); Call It Luck (Tinling); Judge Priest (Ford); Bachelor of Arts (L. King)


Steamboat 'round the Bend (Ford); Life Begins at 40 (Marshall); This Is the Life (Neilan)


The Country Beyond (Forde); The First Baby (Seiler); Ramona (H. King); Pepper (Tinling); Career Woman (Seiler); Can This Be Dixie? (Marshall)


Slave Ship (Garnett); This Is My Affair ( His Affair ) (Seiter); Wife, Doctor, and Nurse (W. Lang)


In Old Chicago (H. King); The Baroness and the Butler (W. Lang); Alexander's Ragtime Band (H. King); Kentucky (Butler); Gateway (Werker)


The Story of Alexander Graham Bell ( The Modern Miracle ) (Cummings); Young Mr. Lincoln (Ford); Drums along the Mohawk (Ford)


Brigham Young—Frontiersman (Hathaway); Hudson's Bay (Pichel)


Belle Starr (Cummings)


To the Shores of Tripoli (Humberstone); Tales of Manhattan (Duvivier)


Guadalcanal Diary (Seiler)


Wilson (H. King)


The Razor's Edge (Goulding)


"The Cop and the Anthem" ep. of O. Henry's Full House (Koster)


There's No Business Like Show Business (W. Lang) (story)

Films as Writer and Producer:


Thunderbirds (Wellman)


The Immortal Sergeant (Stahl); The Ox-Bow Incident ( Strange Incident ) (Wellman)


A Bell for Adano (H. King) (co)


Captain from Castile (H. King); Mother Wore Tights (W. Lang)


The Walls of Jericho (Stahlo); When My Baby Smiles at Me (W. Lang); Yellow Sky (Wellman)


You're My Everything (W. Lang) (co-sc)


Cheaper by the Dozen (W. Lang); My Blue Heaven (Koster) (co-sc); American Guerilla in the Philippines ( I Shall Return ) (F. Lang); I'd Climb the Highest Mountain (H. King)


With a Song in My Heart (W. Lang); Stars and Stripes Forever ( Marching Along ) (Koster)

Film as Producer:

1946 Colonel Effingham's Raid ( Man of the Hour ) (Pichel)


By TROTTI: screenplays—

Wilson and The Ox-Bow Incident in Best Film Plays 1943–1944 , edited by John Gassner and Dudley Nichols, New York, 1945.

On TROTTI: articles—

Tereba Smith, Maynard, in Films in Review (New York), August-September 1958.

Tereba Smith, Maynard, in American Screenwriters, 2nd series , edited by Randall Clark, Detroit, Michigan, 1986.

* * *

With the exception of one screenplay for MGM in 1934, You Can't Buy Everything , Lamar Trotti worked exclusively for 20th Century-Fox from 1933 until his death in 1952. This identification with a single studio (and its stable of stars and craftsmen), coupled with his growing power within that company, gives Trotti's work an uncommon consistency. His 50-odd films cover a variety of styles and genres: westerns ( The Ox-Bow Incident , Yellow Sky ), musicals ( Mother Wore Tights , My Blue Heaven ), war films ( Guadalcanal Diary , American Guerilla in the Philippines ), and biographies ( Stars and Stripes Forever , The Story of Alexander Graham Bell , Young Mr. Lincoln and Wilson ). Directors as diverse as Ford, Wellman, King, and Koster brought his words to the screen. But Trotti's body of work is bound together by his amiable, low-key style, his historian's eye and ear, his casual gravity.

The typical Trotti screenplay is imbued with an earnest feeling for the American past and is characterized by an easy pace, nearly plotless structure, and a concentration on human values as opposed to spectacle or melodrama. "Americana" is what Trotti did best. Films as diverse as Young Mr. Lincoln and Cheaper By the Dozen share a graceful—yet never sugar-coated—view of the American landscape, an appreciation of rustic character, a respect for the principles and attitudes of earlier, "simpler" times.

Trotti was born in Georgia at the turn of the century; both the land and the era of his origins were to influence his work enormously. I'd Climb the Highest Mountain and Colonel Effingham's Raid are set in Georgia; many others of his films take place in the South; only a handful are set in the present. That Trotti's father allegedly fought in the American Civil War might help to explain Trotti's lifelong obsession with that conflict (though, certainly, such an obsession is not rare in the South). The shadow of that war falls across much of Trotti's work: Judge Priest celebrates the camaraderie of a group of aging Confederate veterans; Young Mr. Lincoln is imbued with a prescience of the upcoming conflict and of Lincoln's fateful role in it; The Ox-Bow Incident , Yellow Sky , and Belle Starr take place in the period after the war when disillusion and despair have turned its soldiers into ruthless martinets or cynical outlaws.

Trotti's insistent return to the theme of the American Civil War and to more general "Southern" stories is no coincidence; it speaks of a deliberation and interest that transcends the simple typecasting which was (and is) so rampant in Hollywood. Trotti subtly bent the demands and conventions of the popular film to his own ends.

There is a strong streak of sentiment in Trotti's films which can sometimes impede appreciation of his enormous skill and integrity as a screenwriter by "modern" viewers. But true warmth and honest sentiment are as rare in the cinema as deep thought or original ideas. A writer can sometimes fake having brains; he can never fake having a heart.

Henry Fonda once called Trotti "one of the very few people in the film industry for whom I have any respect." The sincere and unpretentious character which inspired such a comment translated itself with uncommon purity into Trotti's screenplays. His work, when taken as a whole, makes up something very much like an autobiography.

—Frank Thompson

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