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Nunnally Johnson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Nunnally Johnson
Johnson in 1939
Nunnally Hunter Johnson

(1897-12-05)December 5, 1897
DiedMarch 25, 1977(1977-03-25) (aged 79)
  • Director
  • producer
  • screenwriter
  • playwright
Alice Love Mason
(m. 1919; div. 1920)
Marion Byrnes
(m. 1927; div. 1938)
(m. 1940)
Children5, including Marjorie Fowler and Nora Johnson

Nunnally Hunter Johnson (December 5, 1897 – March 25, 1977) was an American screenwriter, film director, producer and playwright. As a filmmaker, he wrote the screenplays to more than fifty films in a career that spanned from 1927 to 1967. He also produced more than half of the films he wrote scripts for and directed eight of those movies. In 1940 he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Grapes of Wrath and in 1956, he was nominated for the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Feature Film for The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. Some of his other notable films include Tobacco Road (1941), The Moon Is Down (1943), Casanova Brown (1944), The Keys of the Kingdom (1944), The Woman in the Window (1944), The Mudlark (1950), The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel (1951), My Cousin Rachel (1952), The Three Faces of Eve (1957), Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (1962), and The Dirty Dozen (1967). As a playwright he wrote the books for several Broadway musicals, including the musical revue Shoot the Works (1931), Arthur Schwartz's Park Avenue (1946), Bob Merrill's Henry, Sweet Henry (1967), and Jule Styne's Darling of the Day (1968). He also wrote the 1943 Broadway play The World's Full of Girls.

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Early life

Nunnally Johnson was born on December 5, 1897, in Columbus, Georgia, the elder of two sons born to Johnnie Pearl (née Patrick) and James Nunnally Johnson. He and his younger brother, Cecil Patrick Johnson, were raised in Columbus. Their father was a journeyman mechanic, turned tinsmith and coppersmith, turned pipe and sheetmetal shop superintendent for the Central of Georgia Railway.[1][2] His mother founded what later became the PTA in Columbus, and was the first woman to serve on the Muscogee County Board of Education. Johnson Elementary School in Columbus was built and named for her in 1949.[3]

Nunnally graduated from Columbus High School in 1915.[4] While living in Columbus in 1919, at 1312 Third Street, Nunnally was a second lieutenant in the field artillery reserve corps of the U.S. Army during World War I.[5] His brother Cecil graduated from Georgia Tech in 1924,[6] married Gene Clair Norris,[7] and moved to Bellingham, Washington, where he was first a gas department superintendent and later a vice president with Puget Sound Power & Light.[8][9]


Johnson began his career as a journalist, writing for the Columbus Enquirer Sun, the Savannah Press, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, the New York Evening Post and the New York Herald Tribune. He also wrote short stories, and a collection of these stories, titled There Ought to Be a Law, was published in 1930. His first connection with film work was the sale of screen rights to one of his stories in 1927. Johnson asked his editor if he could write film criticism in 1932. When this request was denied, he decided to move to Hollywood and work directly in the film industry.

Finding work as a scriptwriter, Johnson was hired full-time as a writer by 20th Century-Fox in 1935. He began producing films as well and co-founded International Pictures in 1943 with William Goetz. Johnson also directed several films in the 1950s, including two starring Gregory Peck. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Screenplay in 1940 for The Grapes of Wrath and the Directors Guild of America Best Director Award in 1956 for The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. In 1964, Johnson adapted his daughter Nora Johnson's novel, The World of Henry Orient, into a film of the same title, starring Peter Sellers.

Personal life

His first marriage in 1919 at Trinity Church in Brooklyn Heights,[10] was to Alice Love Mason, with whom he had one daughter, film editor Marjorie Fowler. Mason was an editor with the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.[11] Mason and Johnson divorced in 1920. His second marriage was to Marion Byrnes in 1927, also a staff member of the Daily Eagle,[12] with whom he also had a daughter, Nora Johnson. Byrnes's and Johnson's marriage ended in 1938.

While filming The Grapes of Wrath, Johnson met his third wife, actress Dorris Bowdon, a Mississippi native. The two were married at the home of Charles MacArthur and Helen Hayes in Nyack-on-the-Hudson on February 4, 1940.[13] They had three children. They resided in a mansion located at 625 Mountain Drive in Beverly Hills, California.[14] It was designed by architect Paul R. Williams.[14]

Actor Jack Johnson is his grandson.


Johnson died of pneumonia in Hollywood in 1977 and was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.[15]


Year Title As
Writer Producer Director
1927 Rough House Rosie Yes*
1933 A Bedtime Story Yes
 Mama Loves Papa Yes*
1934 Moulin Rouge Yes
The House of Rothschild Yes
Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back Yes
Kid Millions Yes
1935 Cardinal Richelieu Yes** Yes
Baby Face Harrington Yes
Thanks a Million Yes
The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo Yes Yes
1936 The Prisoner of Shark Island Yes Yes
The Country Doctor Yes
Dimples Yes
The Road to Glory Yes** Yes
Banjo on My Knee Yes Yes
1937 Nancy Steele Is Missing! Yes
Cafe Metropole Yes
Slave Ship Yes
Love Under Fire Yes
1939 Jesse James Yes Yes
Wife, Husband and Friend Yes Yes
Rose of Washington Square Yes Yes***
1940 The Grapes of Wrath Yes Yes
I Was an Adventuress Yes** Yes
Chad Hanna Yes Yes
1941 Tobacco Road Yes
1942 Roxie Hart Yes Yes
Moontide Yes**
The Pied Piper Yes Yes
Life Begins at Eight-Thirty Yes Yes
1943 The Moon Is Down Yes Yes
Holy Matrimony Yes Yes
1944 Casanova Brown Yes Yes
The Keys of the Kingdom Yes
1945 The Woman in the Window Yes Yes
The Southerner Yes
Along Came Jones Yes
1946 The Dark Mirror Yes Yes
1947 The Senator Was Indiscreet Yes
1948 Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid Yes Yes
1949 Everybody Does It Yes Yes
1950 Three Came Home Yes Yes
The Gunfighter Yes** Yes
The Mudlark Yes Yes
1951 The Long Dark Hall Yes
The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel Yes Yes
1952 Phone Call from a Stranger Yes Yes
We're Not Married! Yes Yes
O. Henry's Full House Yes**
My Cousin Rachel Yes Yes
1953 How to Marry a Millionaire Yes Yes
1954 Night People Yes Yes Yes
Witness to Murder Yes**
Black Widow Yes Yes Yes
1955 How to Be Very, Very Popular Yes Yes Yes
1956 The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit Yes Yes Yes
1957 Oh, Men! Oh, Women! Yes Yes Yes
The Three Faces of Eve Yes Yes Yes
1959 The Man Who Understood Women Yes Yes Yes
1960 The Angel Wore Red Yes Yes
Flaming Star Yes
1962 Something's Got to Give Yes
Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation Yes
1963 Take Her, She's Mine Yes
1964 The World of Henry Orient Yes
1965 Dear Brigitte Yes**
1967 The Dirty Dozen Yes

* Writer of original story
** Uncredited writer


  • Manchel, Frank. (1990). Film Study: An Analytical Bibliography. In Chapter 5 Comparative Literature. Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press. p. 1252. ISBN 0-8386-3412-5. Google Book Search. Retrieved on March 11, 2009.
  • Lloyd, Craig (April 27, 2006). "Nunnally Johnson (1897–1977)". The New Georgia Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on September 17, 2007. Retrieved March 11, 2009.
  • Johnson, Nunnally (1969). Recollections of Nunnally Johnson oral history transcript. University of California Oral History Program.


  1. ^ Stempel, Tom (1980). Screenwriter, The Life and Times of Nunnally Johnson. A. S. Barnes. pp. 20. ISBN 978-0-498-02362-0.
  2. ^ Johnson, Nora (1979), Flashback: Nora Johnson on Nunnally Johnson, Doubleday, p. 20, ISBN 978-0-385-13406-4
  3. ^ "Family Life". Archived from the original on July 29, 2017. Retrieved July 29, 2017.
  4. ^ Stempel. – p.24.
  5. ^ Official List of Officers of the Officers' Reserve Corps of the Army of the United States, vol. 1, United States Adjutant-General's Office, 1919, pp. 34, 123
  6. ^ The Blueprint (Georgia Institute of Technology) – Class of 1924, Atlanta, Georgia: Blueprint Yearbook, 1924, p. 205
  7. ^ Vogel, Sonja O. (2007), The Patrick Family, SALOP Vogel, p. 8
  8. ^ Proceedings of the Twentieth Annual Convention of the Pacific Coast Gas Association, vol. 23, Pacific Coast Gas Association, 1932, p. 566
  9. ^ Poor's Publishing Company, Standard and Poor's Corporation (1957), Poor's Register of Directors and Executives, United States and Canada, Part 2, Standard and Poor's Corp., p. 2410
  10. ^ Nora Johnson. – p.8.
  11. ^ Stempel. – p.28.
  12. ^ Stempel. – p.33.
  13. ^ Stempel. – p.103.
  14. ^ a b Victoria Talbot, 'Beverly Hills Cultural Heritage Commission Splits 2 To 2 on Mountain Drive Landmark Vote', The Beverly Hills Courier, October 3, 2014, Vol. XXXXVIIII, No. 39, p. 4
  15. ^ Obituary Variety, March 30, 1977, page 79.

External links

This page was last edited on 26 April 2024, at 20:52
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