Authors: Dore Schary

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American producer, screenwriter, and playwright

Identity: Jewish

Author Works

Drama:

Too Many Heroes, pr. 1937

Sunrise at Campobello, pr., pb. 1958

The Highest Tree, pr. 1959

The Devil’s Advocate, pr., pb. 1961 (adaptation of Morris L. West’s novel)

Banderol, pr. 1963

One by One, pr. 1964

Brightower, pr. 1970

Antiques, pr. 1973

Herzl, pr. 1976 (with Amos Elon)

Screenplays:

Fury of the Jungle, 1933

Fog, 1933 (with Ethel Hill)

He Couldn’t Take It, 1933 (with Hill)

The Most Precious Thing in Life, 1934

Let’s Talk It Over, 1934

Murder in the Clouds, 1934 (with Roy Chanslor)

Young and Beautiful, 1934

Mississippi, 1935

The Raven, 1935

Chinatown Squad, 1935

Red Hot Tires, 1935

The Silk Hat Kid, 1935 (with Lou Breslow and Edward Elison)

Your Uncle Dudley, 1935

Timothy’s Quest, 1936 (with Gilbert W. Pratt and Virginia Van Upp)

Her Master’s Voice, 1936

Outcast, 1937

Mind Your Own Business, 1937

The Girl from Scotland Yard, 1937 (with Doris Anderson)

Big City, 1937

Boys Town, 1938 (with John Meehan)

Edison the Man, 1940 (with Hugh Butler)

Young Tom Edison, 1940 (with Butler and Bradbury Foote)

Broadway Melody of 1940, 1940

Married Bachelor, 1941

The Battle of Gettysburg, 1956

Sunrise at Campobello, 1960 (adaptation of his play)

Act One, 1963 (adaptation of Moss Hart’s play)

Nonfiction:

Case History of a Movie, 1950 (as told to Charles Palmer)

For Special Occasions, 1962

Heyday: An Autobiography, 1979

Biography

Isidore Schary (SHAR-ee), the son of hardworking Russian Jewish immigrants, grew up in Newark, New Jersey, where his parents ran a kosher catering business. Changing his name to Dore in his teens, he ultimately became one of the most powerful executives in Hollywood. Schary was also a highly successful screenwriter and playwright. His best known works, including his Academy Award-winning screenplay for Boys Town, and his Tony Award-winning play Sunrise at Campobello, combine an entertaining story with a genuine moral or social dimension often absent from escapist movies and theater of the period.{$I[A]Schary, Dore}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Schary, Dore}{$I[geo]JEWISH;Schary, Dore}{$I[tim]1905;Schary, Dore}

After dropping out of high school, Schary was a drama coach at the Newark Young Men’s Hebrew Association (YMHA), along with his lifetime friend, playwright Moss Hart. He also helped produce theatrical performances at summer resorts in the Catskill Mountains. Schary soon returned to high school to finish the requirements for a diploma and then embarked on a career in acting and playwriting. He performed in stock companies and small Broadway roles and wrote plays. In 1932 Schary’s plays came to the attention of executives at Columbia Pictures, who hired him as a screenwriter. That same year he married Miriam Svet, and they eventually had three children.

Schary’s early screenwriting career floundered when he was fired from Columbia after less than a year. Undaunted, he freelanced, writing screenplays for various studios, climaxing with Boys Town, the heartwarming true story of Father Flanagan and his school for juvenile delinquents, which catapulted Schary to fame and widespread recognition in Hollywood. Soon he was made head of the low-budget production unit at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), where he produced many successful films, including Lassie Come Home (1943). However, he resigned in a dispute over a controversial screenplay written with Sinclair Lewis.

Schary then worked with producer David O. Selznick and was made vice president in charge of production at RKO, where he made several engrossing social message films, including Crossfire(1947), concerning anti-Semitism. During this period Schary was called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, an investigating committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, where he was one of the few Hollywood executives to oppose the policy of blacklisting suspected Communists.

Once again resigning his position, this time in a dispute with new studio owner Howard Hughes, Schary moved back to MGM, producing 250 more films, including the classic Blackboard Jungle (1955). The following year Schary was abruptly fired for reasons that are unclear. Resuming his writing career, he created what would become his most resounding theatrical triumph, Sunrise at Campobello, the story of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s battle with polio. Using the inspirational, socially conscious themes which had characterized his many screenplays, Schary captured a pivotal period in Roosevelt’s life as he overcame his serious disability to return to political life.

Schary’s subsequent Broadway plays were far less successful, closing in weeks, and for some, in days, though a notable exception was his long-running adaptation of Morris L. West’s 1959 novel The Devil’s Advocate. In his later years, Schary, a staunch Democrat and social activist, was involved in political and humanitarian pursuits and served as chair of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith.

BibliographyEells, George. “Sunrise at Campobello: The Story of Two Comebacks.” Look 22 (April 1, 1958): 98-101. The “two comebacks” are those of Franklin D. Roosevelt, as portrayed in Sunrise at Campobello, and Dore Schary. Excellent photographs of the theatrical production, with Eleanor Roosevelt on the set.Schary, Dore. For Special Occasions. New York: Random House, 1962. Autobiographical account of Schary’s boyhood and adolescence in Newark, New Jersey, where his family operated a kosher catering establishment named Schary Manor. A fond reminiscence of a colorful assortment of family characters and the comic mayhem which often ensued when catering banquets and weddings.Schary, Dore. Heyday: An Autobiography. Boston: Little, Brown, 1979. Comprehensive coverage of Schary’s life and career.Schary, Dore. “Interview with Dore Schary.” Interview by Patrick McGilligan and Gerald Peary. In Film Crazy: Interviews with Hollywood Legends, edited by McGilligan. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000. Interview conducted in Madison, Wisconsin, in the summer of 1977, three years before Schary’s death. Includes an account of his meeting with Father Flanagan in Omaha to discuss the production of Boys Town.“Top Jobs: Schary Keeps Ideas and People on Track.” Business Week, no. 1250 (August 15, 1953): 78-85. Detailed profile of Schary, then MGM production vice president and chief of studio operations, at the height of his career as a Hollywood studio executive. Includes a synopsis of one of his typical working days, with many photographs of him on the job.Zimmer, Jill Schary. With a Cast of Thousands: A Hollywood Childhood. New York: Stein and Day, 1963. Memoir of growing up in the Schary household by Dore Schary’s daughter. Despite the privileged aristocratic life of limousines, private schools, and interactions with celebrities, the Schary family is shown to be close-knit and mutually supportive.
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