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MacKinlay Kantor

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In the course of a 40-year writing career, MacKinlay Kantor found time to contribute to the big screen as both a novelist and screenwriter. Born in Webster City, IA, he was the son of Effie McKinlay, the editor of a local daily newspaper, and he began his career as a journalist at the age of 17. He had aspirations as an author and at age 24 finished his first novel, Diversey, which was not a success. Kantor spent the next six years making a living writing for newspapers. Then, in 1934, he published Long Remember, a novel that became a best-seller and was so successful that the film rights were purchased; Kantor followed the lead and headed to Hollywood, where three of his books were turned into movies over the next few years. The outbreak of World War II drew Kantor back into journalism -- by most accounts, he really wanted to play a fighting role but instead went over to Europe as a correspondent covering the air war. Kantor found fresh literary success in 1945 when he wrote Glory for Me, a novel in verse form that dealt with men in uniform trying to adjust to civilian life after World War II. Despite its being written in stanzaic form, the book was surprisingly straightforward and gritty in its sensibilities about its characters; Glory for Me was well received at the time by critics and the public alike, and it became a huge success. Even before publication, it had been optioned by Samuel Goldwyn and was transformed by playwright Robert E. Sherwood into the screenplay for The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), arguably the best movie that Goldwyn ever released and one of the most honored movies in Hollywood history. Kantor continued writing books and articles, and the occasional screenplay for the next 20 years -- one of his Saturday Evening Post articles became the basis for Joseph H. Lewis' classic film noir Gun Crazy (1949), with a script credited to Kantor and "Millard Kaufman," a pseudonym for blacklistee Dalton Trumbo. In 1955, Kantor published the most successful and influential book of his career, Andersonville, a novel dealing with the Civil War and the notorious Confederate prison camp. A best-seller for years after its publication, it had an impact on 1950s readers similar to that of Michael Shaara's novel The Killer Angels in the 1980s (which became the basis for the movie Gettysburg). It won Kantor the Pulitzer Prize and elevated him to the front rank of American novelists, and later became the basis for the dramatization The Andersonville Trial (1970). His other work included more historical fiction -- Romance of Rosy Ridge and The Voice of Bugle Ann, which were filmed before the war, and the books Gentle Annie, Gettysburg, The Gun-Toter, and Midnight Lace, among many others -- as well as various non-fiction works including Mission With Le May, about U.S. Army Air Force General Curtis Le May, and speculative works such as If the South Had Won the Civil War. Kantor was, in some respects, the literary equivalent of his fellow Iowan, composer Meredith Willson -- his work tended toward the patriotic and optimistic, attributes that were in short supply and little demand as the 1960s wore on. His last direct contribution to movies came in the form of Disney's adaptation of Kantor's novel God and My Country, which became Follow Me, Boys! (1966), the story of a small-town scoutmaster played by Fred MacMurray. During the mid-'60s, he also published an article in Popular Science magazine declaring that he believed in the existence of UFOs. Generally, Kantor espoused conservative political views which, coupled with his patriotic impulses, made him notably less popular during the final two decades of his life, as the public and the literary establishment fell out of sympathy with his outlook. He is remembered today principally in connection with The Best Years of Our Lives, which has endured in popularity and respect for more than 50 years, and Andersonville.

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No Score Yet Wind Across the Everglades
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97% Gun Crazy (Deadly Is the Female)
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