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Screenwriter Taradash dies

Ex-Acad, WGA prez won Oscar for 'To Eternity'

This article was updated on Feb 26, 2003.

Daniel Taradash, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of “From Here to Eternity” and former Motion Picture Academy president, died Saturday in Los Angeles after a brief bout with pancreatic cancer. He was 90.

Taradash was the Acad’s prexy for three years beginning in 1970 and also served on its board and as vice president over several terms in the 1960s and 1970s.

Current WGA West president Victoria Riskin said: “Dan Taradash was always respected by everyone who knew him for his absolute integrity and for his devotion to his craft, to our Guild, and to the entire industry. In the Writers Guild, he was more than admired — he was loved.”

He also held numerous leadership and committee posts with the Writers Guild, including a three-year stint as president of WGA West from 1977 to 1979. With both the Academy and guild he played crucial roles in several important issues, including contract negotiations, the search for a new Acad headquarters and establishment of numerous education initiatives.

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Among the scribe’s other film credits are “Desiree,” “Picnic,” “Bell, Book and Candle,” “Morituri,” “Castle Keep,” “Doctors’ Wives,” and “The Other Side of Midnight.”

Winding path

Born in 1913 in Louisville, Taradash was the only child of a successful clothing manufacturer. He finished high school at 16 in Miami and attended Harvard College and Harvard Law School.

Persuading his father to stake his writing career for a year, Taradash moved to Gotham, where he won a playwriting contest, earning a chance to take a course with Theater Guild head Theresa Helburn. His course work caught the eye of director Rouben Mamoulian, who hired Taradash and Lewis Meltzer to collaborate with him on the screenplay for “Golden Boy,” released in 1939 by Columbia.

Taradash soon became bicoastal, dividing time between New York and Hollywood, plays and screenplays, before being drafted into the Army in 1941, where he wrote training and morale-building films. It was while posted to the Signal Corps Photographic Center in Astoria, N.Y., that he went on a blind date with Madeleine Forbes, who had just moved to New York from Los Angeles. They married six weeks later.

In 1952, he convinced Columbia Studios head Harry Cohn that he was the writer to bring James Jones’ controversial bestseller “From Here to Eternity” to the screen. Pic was greenlit, and eventually garnered thirteen Academy Award nominations and eight wins.

He directed one film, “Storm Center,” in 1956. A lifelong Democrat, Taradash had also co-written the heavily political story about a librarian, played by Bette Davis, who comes under heavy criticism for refusing to remove a book about communism from library shelves.

It was a bold picture to make at the height of the Cold War, but, his wife Madeleine Taradash said, “it was really too late.” The McCarthy hysteria of the early 1950s had subsided just a couple of years before the film’s debut.

Madeleine and his son, Bill, described Taradash as a private man who loved museums, travelled twice a year to New York to see live theater there, and watched perhaps 100 films a year, as many as two or three a week up until just a short time before his death.

He recorded an oral history with the Academy in 1996, and the University of Wyoming has archived many of his meticulously collected papers.

He is survived by Madeleine; three children, and two grandchildren.

The funeral will be private. No services have yet been scheduled.

(Jill Feiwell and Dave Mcnary contributed to this report.)

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