Saturday, August 2, 2008

Playwright and Screenwriter Luther Davis Passes On

Luther Davis, playwright and screenwriter who wrote the musical Kismet and the movie The Hucksters, passed on July 29 at the age of 91.

Davis was born August 29, 1916 in Brooklyn. He attended Culver Military Academy in Indiana and later Yale. \

Davis broke into Broadway providing production ideas for Crazy with the Heat in 1941. He received his first screen credit for having written the article upon which the 1942 movie The Mayor of 44nd Street was based. During World War II he served in the U.S. Army Air Corps, rising to the rank of major.

Upon his return, Davis resumed writing. He wrote the play Kiss Them For Me, which debuted on Broadway in 1945. Two years later, he provided the screenplay for the Clark Gable movie The Hucksters. Thereafter Davis divided his time between the stage and screen. He worked on such films as Black Hand, Kismet, Lady in a Cage, and Across 110th Street. He worked on such plays as Leonard Sillman's New Faces of 1952, Kismet (for which he won a Tony), Timbuktu, and the stage musical version of Grand Hotel. Starting in 1953 with an episode of Schlitz Playhouse of Stars, he began working in television. Davis wrote episodes for such series as Bourbon Street Beat, 87th Precinct, Combat, and Ironside.

Luther Davis was a brilliant writer. Kismet stands as one of the more unique musicals to come down the pike, blending The Arabian Nights with Broadway kitsch. His episodes of Combat rank among the best of that series. He was also a prolific writer, writing five Broadway plays, several movies, and many television episodes. Even if he had only written Kismet, he would taken his place in history. As it is, he did so much more.

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