Saturday December 05, 2020
I recently researched Charles Lederer for my review of the James Cagney movie “Never Steal Anything Small,” which Lederer directed, but last night I realized I did a poor job of it. Directing wasn't his thing. I knew that much. “Never Steal” was his third and last and best-known attempt. No, he was a writer, and wrote some big things: “His Girl Friday,” “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” “Ocean's 11.” I guess I thought that was enough to know. Apparently I didn't even look at his Wikipedia entry, which would've told me all.
Last night told me all. Patricia and I were watching “Mank,” the new David Fincher-directed Netflix movie about how Herman Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) came to write “Citizen Kane,” when Charlie Lederer appears as a character. I was like, “Whoa, I know him. He directed 'Never Say Anything Small.' I didn't know he knew Herman Mankiewicz!”
That wasn't all I didn't know. In short order, I learned Charlie:
- was the nephew of Marion Davies
- introduced Mankiewicz to William Randolph Hearst
- was given an early copy of “Kane” by Mankiewicz
- was so upset by it he showed it to Davies and Hearst
In other words, Lederer was both responsible for the creation of “Kane” (by introducing Mank to Hearst) and for Hearst's attempt to kill “Kane” out of the gate (by introducing Hearst to the script).
And here I just thought he was the so-so director-writer of a late, uneven Cagney flick.
Lesson? Do your homework, kids. There's a whole world there.