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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark 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.

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor