Maurice Rapf, blacklisted writer and co-founder of the Screen Writers Guild (precursor of the WGA) who helped pen such Disney classics as “Cinderella” and “Song of the South” as well as “So Dear to My Heart,” died Tuesday April 15 in Hanover, N.H., where he was a professor emeritus in his alma mater Dartmouth College’s film studies department. He was 88.
New York City native and a son of MGM co-founder Harry Rapf was raised in Hollywood and later wrote a book about his childhood, “Back Lot: Growing Up With the Movies.” At age 3, he began what he later said wrote was “a brief career as a movie actor, playing war orphans, street urchins and assorted brats. That ended when I started school.”
An English major at Dartmouth, he was part of a student body that also included Budd Schulberg, Hayes Goetz and Jim Goldstone — all sons of movie executives, and all isolated in a small New Hampshire town, where movies were a frequent source of entertainment. (Among his early credits was “Winter Carnival” at Dartmouth, written in collaboration with Schulberg; Rapf replaced F. Scott Fitzgerald, who had originally been assigned to the project.)
After graduating from Dartmouth, he returned to Hollywood and worked as a screenwriter at several major studios. Early on, he became an advocate for the rights of screenwriters and helped found was later was renamed the Writers Guild of America.
Blacklisted in 1947 because of his support of the Communist Party and his union work, Rapf moved east with his family, settled in Norwich, Vt., and helped establish the Dartmouth Film Society, the country’s first college-based one. He also made some films for the college, including “My First Week at Dartmouth” starring class of 1952’s Buck Henry (back then Buck Zuckerman).
He later worked in New York City as a writer, director and producer of more than 60 commercial and industrial films, reviewed pics for Life and Family Circle magazines, and returned to Dartmouth in 1967 where he began a long career as a teacher of film. He wrote the film text for “All About the Movies.”
He was predeceased by his wife of 56 years, Louise, and a brother, Matthew, also a Dartmouth alum. He is survived by two daughters, a son, and four grandchildren.
A memorial service Rapf is set for 10 a.m. Saturday May 31, in Rollins Chapel on the Dartmouth College campus.
Donations in his name may be sent to Nancy Bates, Office of Donor Relations, Dartmouth College, 6066 Development Office, Hanover, N.H. 03755.