Obituary: Don McGuire

DURING THE last half of the Forties, Don McGuire enjoyed a steady career in films as an actor, typifying the regular all-American "Joe" in likeable fashion without ever making the sort of impression that would lead to major stardom. In 1951 he wisely switched to writing, for which his background in journalism had prepared him, and directing.

Though much of his work was undistinguished, he had a hand in the writing of two outstanding movies, John Sturges's fine thriller Bad Day at Black Rock and Sydney Pollack's comedy Tootsie, for which McGuire received an Oscar nomination, along with his co- writers Larry Gelbart and Murray Schisgal. He also worked extensively in television, creating the hit show Hennessey.

Born in Chicago in 1919, McGuire worked on local Hearst newspapers as a journalist, then after spending four years in the US Army went to Hollywood as a press agent. His boyish charm led to the offer of a film contract with Warners and he made his screen debut as a wounded soldier in Pride of the Marines (1945). Roles followed in two of Joan Crawford's best films, Humoresque (1946, as a barman) and Possessed (1947), as a hospital intern tending to the traumatised Crawford. In Nora Prentiss (1947), he was a young van driver who starts the film's events in motion when he runs down and slightly injures Ann Sheridan, and in The Man I Love (1947), starring Ida Lupino, he had one of his best roles as a young husband who spoils his flighty wife (Dolores Moran).

When Warners let him go in 1948 he found himself mainly in B movies, though one of them, Richard Fleischer's Armoured Car Robbery (1950) was a superior thriller in which McGuire made a strong impression as Danny Ryan, a rookie detective assigned to work with a seasoned veteran (Charles McGraw) who has just lost his partner. At the film's climax, Ryan nearly loses his life during a tense undercover ruse.

One of McGuire's last films as an actor was Double Dynamite (1951), in which he played the womanising son of a bank manager - an important film for him in that he formed a friendship with its star, Frank Sinatra. Later McGuire was to write the Sinatra film Meet Danny Wilson (1952) and both write and direct the western Johnny Concho (1956) starring Sinatra.

McGuire's first screenwriting credits came when he wrote the original stories for two B thrillers, Double Deal (1950), a murder mystery set in the world of oil-wells, and Dial 1119 (1950), a minor but engrossing movie set in a bar where a psychopath (Marshall Thompson) holds captive a disparate group of customers. The film made notable use of the bar's television set to further the narrative, one of the first times that the then-fresh medium had been used as an important plot device. McGuire's script for Meet Danny Wilson was a skilful blend of comedy and drama neatly tailored for Sinatra, but his story and screenplay for the Donald O'Connor- Janet Leigh musical Walking My Baby Back Home (1953) was tediously lacklustre.

He fared better with his adaptation of a Howard Breslin story, Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), though Millard Kaufman wrote the final screenplay for this powerful drama in which a one-armed stranger (Spencer Tracy) arrives in a remote western town just after the end of the Second World War and uncovers a dark secret. McGuire co-scripted two Martin and Lewis vehicles, Three Ring Circus (1955) and one of their best films Artists and Models (1956). McGuire was one of four writers (including the director Frank Tashlin) on the latter, but Jerry Lewis thought highly of his work, and, when the comic turned producer the following year to make his first solo starring vehicle, he engaged McGuire both to write and direct.

A satire on films about juvenile delinquency, The Delicate Delinquent was, like McGuire's Sinatra western Johnny Concho, only a moderate success and McGuire moved into television where, in 1959, he created, as writer, producer and director, the series Hennessey, which ran for three seasons. Set at a naval base in San Diego, it starred Jackie Cooper as a young medical officer who treated the base personnel and their families, with Abby Dalton as his nurse-sweetheart and James Komack as a Bilko-type naval dentist.

McGuire spent most of the next 20 years working in television, and during that time wrote three novels largely based on his experiences, The Day Television Died, 1600 Floogle Street and The Hell With Walter Cronkite. When McGuire returned to the big screen, it was with a gigantic success, Tootsie (1982), for which he and Larry Gelbart wrote the original story. One of the highest-grossing films in the history of Columbia Pictures, this trenchant comedy of sexual identity and the vagaries of show business was an enormous hit and won an Oscar nomination for its screenplay. McGuire expressed displeasure at some of the changes that were made to the original conception - the final screenplay was by Gelbart and Murray Schisgal, with uncredited additional work by Elaine May.

Don McGuire, actor, screenwriter and producer: born Chicago 28 February 1919; died Los Angeles 13 April 1999.

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders