W.R. Burnett

Lowest Rated: 33% The Racket (1951)
Birthday: Not Available
Birthplace: Not Available
Descended from a long line of Ohio political bosses (his grandfather was mayor of Columbus), William Riley Burnett was educated at that state's Miami Military Institute and at O.S.U. Thanks to family connections, Burnett landed a job as an Ohio state statistician, a post he held from 1920 to 1927. Finally wearying of civil service, he moved to Chicago, hoping to make his fortune as a novelist. His first book was Little Caesar, an "a clef" account of the rise of Chi-Town's Al Capone. Little Caesar was made into a landmark gangster picture by Warner Bros. in 1931. Throughout his Hollywood years, Burnett avoided being "typed" by tackling virtually every literary genre: if his work has any unifying theme, it's the story of the tough little maverick at odds with a big, impersonal Establishment. Similarly, Burnett was himself a Hollywood "outsider," refusing to humble himself before major stars or powerful directors. Perhaps significantly, he never won an Oscar (though he was nominated for Wake Island) or even as Screen Writer's Guild award. Most of his post-Little Caesar novels made it to the screen, often adapted by Burnett himself: Saint Johnson, based on the legend of Wyatt Earp, became Law and Order (1932), while Jailbreak was transformed into The Whole Town's Talking (1935). On the whole, Burnett's literary efforts came to the screen with their original titles intact, including Dr. Socrates, Dark Command, High Sierra, Nobody Lives Forever, and best of all, The Asphalt Jungle. He also occasionally worked on screen originals like Scarface (1931) and Crash Dive (1944). Despite his virulent anti-communism, Burnett got along quite well with most of the Hollywood Left and frequently collaborated with them. His last major film work, another "little guy against the odds" affair, was 1963's The Great Escape.

Highest Rated Movies



94% The Great Escape Screenwriter 1963
No Score Yet Sergeants 3 Screenwriter 1962
No Score Yet Short Cut to Hell Screenwriter 1957
No Score Yet Accused of Murder Screenwriter 1956
No Score Yet Illegal Screenwriter 1955
No Score Yet I Died a Thousand Times Screenwriter 1955
No Score Yet Captain Lightfoot Screenwriter 1955
No Score Yet Dangerous Mission Screenwriter 1954
33% The Racket Screenwriter 1951
No Score Yet Nobody Lives Forever Screenwriter 1946
No Score Yet San Antonio Screenwriter 1945
No Score Yet Background to Danger Screenwriter 1943
No Score Yet Action in the North Atlantic Screenwriter 1943
No Score Yet Crash Dive Screenwriter 1943
83% Wake Island Screenwriter 1942
93% This Gun for Hire Screenwriter 1942
No Score Yet The Getaway (The Get-Away) Screenwriter 1941
94% High Sierra Screenwriter 1941
100% The Whole Town's Talking Screenwriter 1935
100% Scarface Screenwriter 1932
No Score Yet The Beast of the City Screenwriter 1932
91% Little Caesar Screenwriter 1931


No Score Yet Bonanza
  • 1968


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