Howard Koch Library
Howard Koch's chief motivation was "to dramatize as honestly as I can any aspect of the human condition in its social framework with an emphasis on life, and supporting values." What a wonderful mission statement!
He began writing plays in the late 1920s and then turned to radio scripts. He first came to Hollywood's attention after he scripted, "War of the Worlds," Orson Welles' famous radio broadcast of a fictional but seemingly real invasion from outer space in 1938. It was based on the H.G. Wells novel and done in a news bulletin style where thousands were convinced that Martians had landed in New Jersey.
Koch began writing for the movies in the early 1940s as a contracted writer at Warner Bros. studios. He earned an Oscar in 1943 for his legendary script "Casablanca." This masterpiece has come to represent our most fundamental understanding of what movies should be and how they can affect us. Practically every story line in the film plays directly to our common humanity. The performances are iconic. There's personal sacrifice for the greater good in relinquishing the love of one's life. There's an ugly truth about the inevitability of moral compromise, and there is an honest look at the nobility of following one's convictions. It's universal and touches all who experience it. Some other screen credits include: "Sergeant York," "The Sea Hawk," "Mission to Moscow," "The Best Years of Our Lives," "Letter From an Unknown Woman" and others.
After he was suspected of being a communist and blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1951, Koch moved with his wife Anne (an accomplished writer in her own right) and their family to Europe where they took up residence in the United Kingdom where they wrote for five years for film and television ("The Adventures of Robin Hood" was among them) under the pseudonyms "Peter Howard" and "Anne Rodney". In 1956, they returned to the United States and settled in Woodstock, New York where he continued to write plays and books and remained actively committed to progressive political and social justice causes.
Cass Warner met Howard Koch in 1988 while taking a screenwriting class he was teaching in her home town – a special relationship was born. Cass had the pleasure of speaking with him about The Golden Age of Hollywood, and interviewing him for her book, "The Brothers Warner." While visiting him at his home in Woodstock, New York, she noticed a stack of scripts on his shelf. They were all his unproduced works. In disbelief that because of his age no one would represent him in Hollywood, Cass requested if Warner Sisters could have the honor and the privilege of having access to all of his unproduced screenplays, stage plays and novels. This wish was granted.
There are 19 produced screenplays; 16 unproduced screenplays; 10 produced stage plays; 9 unproduced screenplays; 1 unfinished screenplay; 6 treatments or synopsis; an idea for a comedy series; 1 unfinished treatment; 1 radio play (The "Panic Broadcast" or "War of the Worlds"); 4 published books; 3 unpublished books, and a trove of political letters and letters to the editor of The New York Times, as well as correspondence between directors, actors, etc.
Featured Unproduced Screenplays:
THE COLDEST WAR: An environmental "China Syndrome" – a hypothetical nuclear-reactor accident. Treatment and unpublished novel available.
THE GARDENER: An original screenplay by Howard Koch. A timely, touching and intriguing surrogate mother story. Script available.
A RIDE ON THE MILKY WAY: A screen adaptation by Howard Koch based on the novel by Marguerite Dorian. A young woman's coming-of-age story. Introduces a fourteen year old girl to this magical art form by a charming French puppeteer. Script available.
IN TIME TO COME: An original play by Howard Koch and John Huston. The true story of President Woodrow Wilson and his wife, Edith, who secretly took over his duties after her husband fell ill while fighting for world peace. Script available.
Featured Screenplay Outlines:
RETURN TO CASABLANCA
While I was visiting with Howard, he mentioned that around 1960 he started working on a treatment or outline for a sequel to the legendary film, "Casablanca." My eyes lit up! He continued to share the sequel idea with me that he finished writing in 1988. "After leaving Casablanca for America, Ilsa learned she was pregnant. She gave birth to a boy who grew up in America. The real father of the boy, it turns out was not Laszlo but Rick (Bogart's character). He was conceived the night Ilsa came to Rick's place to plead for the Letters of Transit . The secret was not kept from Laszlo, but being the kind of man he was and owing so much to Rick, he adopted the child and treated him as his own son. The boy was named Richard, and he grew up to be a handsome, tough-tender young man reminiscent of his father. He had been told the truth about his origin and had a deep desire to find his real father, or at least find out more about him, since Rick's heroic actions in Casablanca had become legendary. The main action of the film takes places around 1961, as the 20 year-old Richard arrives in Casablanca after the death of his mother and Laszlo..."
The story went on, and is part of what is in the prized outline Warner Sisters has in her possession. Howard ended with he felt it would have been an interesting thing to do without violating "Casablanca." Needless, to say, I couldn't agree with him more as I'd love to encourage the current generation of moviegoers to be more motivated to want to watch the original masterpiece, and perhaps the sequel would wet their appetite.
In 2009, while promoting my documentary, "The Brothers Warner," I met Lou Lumenick, the chief film critic of The New York Post. Lou shared an admiration for Howard Koch and a wish to make known what Howard's idea was for a follow-up story to "Casablanca." Happily, Lou wrote the article below that has gotten such an incredible response internationally.
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