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Uncredited


1965. For Woodfall Films, with director Tony Richardson, producer Oscar Lewenstein: script-fixing on an original screenplay by Jean Genêt, Feux Interdits. The 'forbidden fires' are repressed desires of the lonely schoolmistress of a remote French village, that impel her to arson and the poisoning of farm animals. Shooting (with Jeanne Moreau in the lead) was about to start within the month; Genêt had without warning walked away from the project, and disappeared as only he knew how; the script was a heap of typed and handwritten pages in no discernible order. After three weeks' work, with some major story-problems still unresolved, I was brought down to the location, on the wilds of the Massif Central, but by now there was little that I could do: once a shooting-schedule is under way, it is not practical to propose radical revisions, and the director has an unending agenda of other problems on his mind. Also, Richardson's marriage was in serious trouble, and his relations with the producer were not good. He could only do his best with a script that was not ready. The film was released in 1966 as Mademoiselle; it is not listed in Maltin or Halliwell. One critic observed that only in one scene had she heard the authentic voice of Genêt: it was a scene that I had added and written myself.


1965. For director François Truffaut, dialogue-translation and additional screenplay work on his adaptation (with Jean-Louis Richard) of Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury's dystopic vision of a world where literature is exterminated, and the Fire Service's duty is to hunt down books for burning. Again, this was a last-minute matter, with shooting about to start within some ten days. Apart from recreating the dialogue in English, there were also some scenes still needing to be written. My task was complicated by the fact that Truffaut was to film everything in parallel versions, English and French: I was thus not only translating his French dialogue, I had to carry its rhythms through into the English (almost as though for dubbing), so that the actors could play both versions in a similar energy. In spite of the urgency, Truffaut himself remained still and composed, focussed and charming. We agreed that I should be shut into a room in the production office, to start on page one of the script and get on with the work in story order. When asked what I needed, I requested a block of wide-lined white paper, and a bottle of Parker black ink for my fountain-pen - and the curtains closed. The company refused to permit the use of ink: they were afraid for their expensive carpets. I said I write in ink (still true 40 years on) or I write nothing. Truffaut saw to it that I had the ink. In the evenings, along with the inevitable script-discussion, we also (all too briefly) talked about Hitchcock, a passion that we shared. Truffaut later gave me an autographed copy of his Entretiens with Hitchcock.

Although my work was officially uncredited, my name does appear on the voluminous credits-list that distributors subsequently appended. This credit-roller violates Truffaut's artistic intention: he released the film with spoken credits - in accord with the theme, no words at all were to be seen onscreen, except in the images of burning books.

My next film-project was a full screenplay of my own, for Columbia Pictures and director Fred Zinnemann. At a very late stage in development, this production was cancelled. (See Unproduced.) It would be nearly 20 years before a film that I had written would make its way to the screen.