Producer and Writer.
Jerome Irving Wald in Brooklyn, New York, 16 September 1911.
Studied journalism at New York University, 1929–31.
Married Eleanor Rudolph, 1935 (divorced 1936).
1929–31—radio columnist, New York
; 1933–50—produced shorts, then script writer, and from 1941
producer, Warner Bros.; 1950—formed production company with Norman
Krasna; 1952–56—Vice-President in Charge of Production,
Columbia; 1956—formed Jerry Wald Productions, releasing through
Irving G. Thalberg Award, 1948.
In Hollywood, California, 13 July 1962.
Twenty Million Sweethearts (Enright); Gift of Gab (Freund)
Sweet Music (Green); Maybe It's Love (McGann); Living on Velvet (Borzage); In Caliente (Bacon); Broadway Gondolier (Bacon); I Live for Love (Berkeley); Little Big Shot (Curtiz); Stars over Broadway (Keighley)
Sons o' Guns (Bacon); Sing Me a Love Song (Enright)
Ready, Willing, and Able (Enright); Varsity Show (Keighley); Hollywood Hotel (Berkeley)
Gold Diggers in Paris (Enright); Garden of the Moon (Berkeley); Brother Rat (Keighley); Hard to Get (Enright); Going Places (Enright)
The Kid from Kokomo (Seiler); Naughty but Nice (Enright); On Your Toes (Enright); The Roaring Twenties (Walsh)
Brother Rat and a Baby (Enright); Three Cheers for the Irish (Bacon); Flight Angels (Seiler); Torrid Zone (Keighley); They Drive by Night (Walsh)
Million Dollar Baby (Bernhardt); Out of the Fog (Litvak); Manpower (Walsh)
Air Force (Hawks) (co)
Shine On, Harvest Moon (Butler) (co)
Navy Blues (Bacon) (+ co-sc); The Man Who Came to Dinner (Keighley)
All through the Night (V. Sherman); Larceny, Inc. (Bacon); Juke Girl (Bernhardt); Across the Pacific (Huston); Desperate Journey (Walsh); George Washington Slept Here (Keighley)
The Hard Way (V. Sherman) (+ co-sc); Action in the North Atlantic (Bacon) (+ co-sc); Background to Danger (Walsh)
Destination Tokyo (Daves) (+ co-sc); In Our Time (V. Sherman) (+ co-sc); The Very Thought of You (Daves) (+ co-sc)
Objective, Burma! (Walsh) (+ co-sc); Pride of the Marines (Daves); Mildred Pierce (Curtiz)
Possessed (Bernhardt); The Unfaithful (V. Sherman) (+ co-sc); Dark Passage (Daves)
To the Victor (Daves) (+ co-sc); Key Largo (Huston); Johnny Belinda (Negulesco)
One Sunday Afternoon (Walsh); The Adventures of Don Juan ( The New Adventures of Don Juan ) (V. Sherman); John Loves Mary (Butler); Flamingo Road (Curtiz); Task Force (Daves) (+ co-sc); Always Leave Them Laughing (Del Ruth); The Inspector General (Koster)
Young Man with a Horn (Curtiz); Perfect Strangers (Windust); The Damned Don't Cry (V. Sherman) (+ co-sc); Caged (Cromwell) (+ co-sc); The Breaking Point (Curtiz); The Glass Menagerie (Rapper)
Storm Warning (Heisler) (+ co-sc); Behave Yourself (Beck); The Blue Veil (Bernhardt)
Clash by Night (F. Lang); The Lusty Men (Ray)
Miss Sadie Thompson (Bernhardt)
The Queen Bee (MacDougall)
The Eddie Duchin Story (Sidney)
An Affair to Remember (McCarey); No Down Payment (Ritt); Peyton Place (Robson); Kiss Them for Me (Donen)
The Long Hot Summer (Ritt); In Love and War (Dunne); Mardi Gras (Goulding); The Sound and the Fury (Ritt); The Best of Everything (Negulesco); Hound-Dog Man (Siegel); Beloved Infidel (H. King)
The Story on Page One (Odets); Sons and Lovers (Cardiff); Let's Make Love (Cukor)
Return to Peyton Place (J. Ferrer); Wild in the Country (Dunne); Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man (Ritt )
Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (Koster)
The Stripper (Schaffner)
From Here to Eternity (Zinnemann); The Big Heat (F. Lang); Gun Fury (Walsh)
Bad for Each Other (Rapper); It Should Happen to You (Cukor); Pushover (Quine); The Caine Mutiny (Dmytryk); Human Desire (F. Lang); Phffft! (Robson); They Rode West (Karlson)
The Violent Men (Maté); Three for the Show (Potter); Cell 2455, Death Row (Sears); Tight Spot (Karlson); Five against the House (Karlson); The Long Gray Line (Ford); My Sister Eileen (Quine)
The Last Frontier (A. Mann); Picnic (Logan); The Harder They Fall (Robson); Jubal (Daves); The Solid Gold Cadillac (Quine); You Can't Run Away from It (Powell)
Editor, with Richard Macaulay, The Best Pictures 1939–1940 , New York, 1940.
Films and Filming (London), September 1958.
Goodman, Ezra, "How to be a Hollywood Producer," in Harper's (New York), May 1948.
Nolan, Jack Edmund, in Films in Review (New York), August-September 1961, corrections in October 1961.
Matteson, A., in Chaplin (Stockholm), vol. 14, no. 2, 1972.
* * *
Jerry Wald's ambition, his often unbridled creative drive, and his desire to make every picture in town—all at once—characterized this highly energetic writer-producer from his arrival in Hollywood in 1933 until his untimely death in 1962.
Born in Brooklyn, Wald began his writing career at the age of 19 by creating a radio column for the New York Graphic while studying journalism at New York University. He quickly advanced and soon persuaded Warner Bros. to produce a series of short subjects featuring radio stars called "Rambling 'round Radio Row." But it was a biographical article he ghostwrote for the crooner Russ Columbo that gave Wald his break in motion pictures. Warners bought the story, and signed Wald to collaborate on Twenty Million Sweethearts , featuring their rising musical star Dick Powell. Between 1934 and 1941, Wald worked in some capacity on some 30 pictures and was credited with several original stories. His most frequent cowriters were Julius Epstein (who later gained fame collaborating with his brother Philip) and the ex-magazine writer Richard Maccauly. During these early years, Wald's films were primarily formula musicals ( In Caliente , Ready, Willing, and Able , Hollywood Hotel ) and lightweight comedies ( Sons o' Guns , Hard to Get , Brother Rat ).
Despite Wald's status as a writer, he desperately wanted to function as a producer. Even in the mid-1930s he was acting as an "idea" man—generating original story ideas or suggesting plot blendings or remakes—and depended on dedicated writers like Epstein or Maccauly to develop and execute the concepts. Towards the end of the decade, Wald's pictures incorporated more dramatic material. Associations with the writer-producer Mark Hellinger led to credits on The Roaring Twenties , Torrid Zone , They Drive By Night , and Manpower , and steered Wald in the direction which would characterize many of his productions of the 1940s: Realism. Hellinger also provided Wald with his step up to associate producer on Navy Blues when in the middle of the picture Hellinger fell out with Jack Warner, left the studio, and Wald took over, finishing the production.
Once promoted to associate producer, Wald established himself with gritty dramas like The Hard Way and a series of popular war pictures, Across the Pacific , Action in the North Atlantic , Destination Tokyo , and Objective, Burma! . He was personally responsible for resurrecting Joan Crawford's career after her dismissal from MGM by casting her in her Academy Award-winning role in Mildred Pierce ; he sustained her comeback with a series of starring roles in Humoresque , Possessed , Flamingo Road , and The Damned Don't Cry . He believed there was "no such thing as a washed-up star, only washed-up stories," and proved it not only with Crawford but with Jane Wyman ( Johnny Belinda ), Claire Trevor ( Key Largo ), and Lana Turner ( Peyton Place ).
In contrast to a methodical, detail-oriented producer like David Selznick, Wald's industrious, enterprising nature drove him to move quickly from one project to the next. Typically, he would initiate an idea, find the appropriate writer, director, and cast, switch to another project (or two) and then only become seriously involved again to promote the finished project. He was a voracious reader and never gave up his New York connections for fresh stories and new writers. He kept massive files with picture ideas and notebooks jammed with partially developed future projects, most of which he knew would never be realized. He ended his astonishingly prolific and long association with Warner Bros. in 1950, having produced an impressive list of critical and box office successes. In eight years, he had produced 30 more pictures, 12 of them based on his own stories, and prepared at least ten additional properties which were eventually turned over to other producers on the lot. He considered his pinnacle at Warners to be Johnny Belinda , a story of a deaf-mute girl which Jack Warner believed was too obscure to have box-office appeal. The film, however, not only won an Academy Award for Best Actress for Jane Wyman but also earned Wald the prestigious Irving G. Thalberg Award.
At RKO Wald ran an independent production company with his partner, the writer Norman Krasna, under studio-head Howard Hughes. After only two years, he moved again to become Harry Cohn's vice president in charge of production at Columbia Pictures. He enjoyed another profitable tenure, this time at 20th Century-Fox where he formed Jerry Wald Productions, and produced another string of hits, beginning in 1957 with the blockbuster Peyton Place . Unlike his films at Warners, his Fox productions were lavish, often in CinemaScope and/or Technicolor. They covered everything from serious social topics ( No Down Payment ) to glossy biographies ( Beloved Infidel ) to escapistic romance ( An Affair to Remember ).
Although Hollywood legend has it that Jerry Wald provided the model for Budd Schulberg's famous character Sammy Glick in What Makes Sammy Run? , Wald's body of work clearly indicates that he was more than just an ambitious showman who capitalized on the talents of others. A more accurate evaluation of the producer's contribution is perhaps the sentiment attributed to Darryl F. Zanuck, "If it were possible, I'd have ten Jerry Walds working at the studio!"
—Joanne L. Yeck