John Boswell, a former story editor and story analyst for Paramount Pictures, died Sept. 5 in West Hills, Calif., after a long illness. He was 91.
Boswell was head of the story department at Paramount and had considerable influence over what films were eventually made, working with Peter Bart, Robert Evans, Barry Diller, Michael Eisner, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Larry Mark, Don Simpson, Dawn Steel and David Kirkpatrick, among others, over the years.
Boswell began his career at MGM in the mid-1950s but soon moved to Paramount. He was story editor when the studio was located in Beverly Hills but became an analyst again after the move back to the main lot. He was always a colorful character, riding his scooter to work, full of stories about movie stars of the past and ranking the potential of those in the present with his own inimitable stamp.
Boswell has been called a story editor in the classic sense. He took an active role in studio projects, and his opinion could be trusted given his vast knowledge of the medium, its history, successes and failures. He could also be an acerbic critic of less fortunate material.
Born in Pontiac, Mich., John grew up in Anderson, Ind., and graduated from Indiana U. He enlisted in the Army in 1943, and though originally assigned to the Philippines Dept., he was sent to Monterrey Language School for intensive studies in German and subsequently sent to Europe. After the war, John completed his master’s degree in English at Columbia U. and spent a year in Greece teaching English.
He worked for Paramount for 25 years, after which he was given a rare send-off with a huge retirement party. Since retirement, Boswell wrote a book about story analysis and Paramount (yet to be published). He also produced a CD of selections of classic American poetry, featuring his voice.
Boswell spent his last few years at the Motion Picture Home in Woodland Hills, until his first bout with pneumonia over a year ago, after which he was living at a nursing home.
He is survived by two nieces and a nephew. A celebration of his life will be held in January.