Sunday, March 9, 2008

Malvin Wald R.I.P.

Malvin Wald, who was nominated for the Oscar for Best Writing, Motion Picture Story for the film The Naked City, died Thursday at the age of 90.

Malvin Wald was born in 1917. Wald worked in a New York post office for a time after graduating from Brooklyn College in 1936, before moving to Hollywood to pursue writing. During World War II he enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He served in the First Motion Picture Unit, based out of the Hal Roach Studio in Culver City. In all, he wrote more than 30 recruitment and training films.

Wald first received credit for a screenplay before the United States' entry into World War II, on the film Two in a Taxi in 1941. He wrote the stories for films from Ten Gentlemen from West Point (1942) to The Underdog (1943). It was in 1948 that he had his breakthrough screenplay with The Naked City.

One of the best known and best regarded films noir, The Naked City was set in New York and centred upon the police investigation of the murder of a model. As opposed to other films of the day, The Naked City largely de-glamourised the process of investigating a crime, showing step by step and day by day the police investigation. It was one of the earliest police procedurals on film, pre-dating TV shows such Law and Order and CSI. It was also revolutionary in being filmed on the streets of New York, at a time when on location shooting was rare. The film would later serve as the inspiration for the TV series The Naked City (1958 to 1963).

Wald wrote the screenplays for such films as The Dark Past and Outrage before largely moving into television. His first work in television was an episode of the anthology series Your Favourite Story in 1953. During the Fifties he wrote for several anthology series, including Lux Video Theatre, Fireside Theatre, Goodyear Television Playhouse, and Playhouse 90. He also wrote episodes for the shows Jungle Jim, My Friend Flica Have Gun Will Travel, and Perry Mason. He continued to write films, including Battle Taxi and Al Capone.From the Sixties into the Seventies, Wald wrote for such shows as The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Combat, Daktari, and The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams.

If Malvin Wald had only written The Naked City, he would be remembered. The movie was truly the forerunner of police procedurals from Dragnet to CSI. But Malvin Wald did much more, including films such as Not Wanted and Outrage and episodes of several classic TV shows. He was one of the movies and television's most prolific, and arguably best, writers.


Bobby D. said...

I wish I could see some of the episodes of

The Naked City.

I think I once heard Dustin Hoffman say he played a cabbie in one episode.Maybe it was Al Pacino--but I seem to recall Hoffman saying it.

Terence Towles Canote said...

It was Dustin Hoffman. His first appearance on screen, if I recall!