Edmund Hartmann

Erudite screenwriter for Bob Hope

Edmund L. Hartmann, writer and producer: born St Louis, Missouri 24 September 1911; twice married (one daughter); died Santa Fe, New Mexico 28 November 2003.

Bob Hope, drifting along in a gondola with a Venetian beauty, dabbles his hand in the water, then raises it to his nostrils ecstatically and sighs, "Canal Number Five!" This is a moment from Casanova's Big Night, one of the seven Hope films written or co-written by Edmund Hartmann, a soft-spoken, erudite southerner who, in a career spanning more than 60 years, also provided comedy for Abbott and Costello, Martin and Lewis, the Ritz brothers and Lucille Ball.

The St Louis-born Hartmann's first ambition was to become a songwriter and, soon after graduating from Washington University, St Louis, in the early 1930s, he headed for New York to hawk his musical wares. After scant success with Broadway producers, he moved to Hollywood, where he began writing original screen stories. One of them, "The Big Noise", about a retired wool manufacturer who single-handedly brings a gang of protection racketeers to justice, was sold to Warner Bros in 1936.

That year he was signed by RKO, who put him to work writing such forgotten films as the aerial melodrama Without Orders (1936), the medical drama The Man Who Found Himself (1937), the shipboard mystery China Passage (1937), the news-hawk romp Behind the Headlines (1937), the gangster thriller Law of the Underworld(1938) and the love- triangle potboiler Beauty for the Asking (1939).

When his RKO contract lapsed, Hartmann signed a seven-year deal with Universal Pictures. "At Universal, I wrote for three great teams," he told an interviewer, "Abbott and Costello, Olsen and Johnson, and Holmes and Watson." His Universal assignments included Abbott and Costello's Keep 'Em Flying (1941), Ride 'Em Cowboy (1942), In Society (1944), Here Come the Co-eds (1945) and The Naughty Nineties (1945), Olsen and Johnson's The Ghost Catchers (1944) and See My Lawyer (1945), and Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce's Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1943), Sherlock Holmes in Washington (1943) and The Scarlet Claw (1944).

Not only did Hartmann toil on Hi'Ya, Chum (1943), producing laughs for the Ritz brothers, but on Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (1944) and Sudan (1945), preposterous Maria Montez "eastern westerns" that tended to produce laughter that was less intentional. In 1941, on loan-out to Columbia Pictures, he worked on two minor musicals: Ruby Keeler's last starring film, Sweetheart of the Campus, and the Ann Miller vehicle Time Out for Rhythm, described by Bosley Crowther in The New York Times as "one of the dullest diversions in months".

Although he was also briefly employed by MGM and United Artists, Hartmann was proudest of his 14 years at Paramount. His first assignment there was fashioning, with Robert Walsh and Frank Tashlin, the screenplay for the all-star Variety Girl (1947). Next, he and Tashlin wrote The Paleface (1948), Bob Hope's biggest-ever box-office hit. As Painless Potter, a cowardly correspondence-school dentist from the east pretending to be a tough hombre from the west, ("Gimme four fingers of rye," he growls at a saloon barkeeper, "and gimme the thumb too!"), the comedian went to the summit of the popularity charts.

Hartmann helped him write another comic western, Fancy Pants (1951), co-starring Lucille Ball, as well as a brace of Hope forays into the world of Damon Runyon: Sorrowful Jones (1949) and The Lemon Drop Kid (1951). After collaborating with Jack Sher on the Hope/Hedy Lamarr espionage spoof My Favorite Spy (1951), Hartmann and Danny Arnold scripted The Caddy (1953), a feeble Dean Martin/Jerry Lewis vehicle best remembered, if at all, for the song "That's Amore". Again for Hope, he and Hal Kanter wrote Here Come the Girls (1953) and Casanova's Big Night (1954).

At this point, Hartmann abandoned films to write and produce for television. His work for the small screen included The Eve Arden Show, the Henry Fonda series The Smith Family, and the long-running Fred MacMurray sitcom My Three Sons. In the 1960s he became National Chairman of the Writers Guild of America. In 1988 he moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where in 1999 the Santa Fe Critics Circle presented him with the Golden Chili Lifetime Achievement Award.

Discussing comedy-writing in a New Mexico newspaper, Hartmann said, "You can either do it or you can't. It can't be taught."

Dick Vosburgh

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Life and Style
tech
News
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
film
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
News
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas