We found this insight into one of the greatest novelists in the history of American literature on our very own “Writing & Showbiz News” page, which had located the source at the very chic and sophisticated sounding LitHub.Com.
by Walker Caplan
The world knows William Faulkner chiefly as a novelist, but for over a decade, his main trade was screenwriting. In May 1932, Faulkner was broke: his publisher, Cape & Smith, had gone bankrupt, and the money he’d been expecting for his novel Sanctuary was nowhere to be found. When he learned that talent agent Leland Hayward had gotten him a contract writing scripts for MGM, Faulkner leaped at the chance. Though he was initially intimidated by the industry (an often-told anecdote relates Faulkner’s disappointment upon learning he wouldn’t be writing for Mickey Mouse), Faulkner immediately lucked into a collaboration with director Howard Hawks, resulting in the popular movie Today We Live and an ongoing working relationship.
Working for MGM and then Warner Bros., Faulkner had a hand in some bona fide hits: among other films, he worked on The Big Sleep; Gunga Din; and To Have and Have Not. But gradually, he grew discouraged that so many of his films never got made, partially because Hawks had a reputation for going over budget on his movies, partially because . . . you know, Hollywood. His reputation had gradually faded, resulting in worse pay when he started at Warner Bros. in 1942. In a 1945 letter asking for formal release from his Warner Bros. contract, Faulkner wrote that screenwriting “was not his forte,” and that he “don’t dare mis-spend any more of [his time].” (Smart call on his part: five years later, he won the Nobel.)
But despite his lifelong self-deprecation regarding his screenwriting and his ultimate exit from the industry, Faulkner was a screenwriter—he wrote over fifty screenplays, and his distinctive literary style and conceptual preoccupations were reflected in his screenwriting. Reading over the synopses of his work that never made it to the screen, it’s heartening to see his style morph and develop—and it speaks to all the work by “the greats” we never get to see.
Without further ado, here are the unproduced screenplays Faulkner wrote (not including his many unwritten treatments and scripts he simply punched up….