The Asphalt Jungle: A Screenplay

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Southern Illinois Univerity Press, 1980 - Performing Arts - 147 pages
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Dore Schary, then head of production at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, bought The Asphalt Jungle while it was still in manu­script in an effort to match the success Warner Brothers had enjoyed with Bur­nett’s Little Caesar and High Sierra. The choice of Ben Maddow and John Huston as screenwriters assured the artistic success of the screenplay, for few writer/directors could have matched Huston’s ability to develop these characters cine­matically.


It was a case of strength building upon strength. Burnett’s fully devel­oped characters were transformed by Maddow and Huston into a screenplay of impressive immediacy. Indeed the portrayal of the criminals in splendid performances from Louis Calhern, Sam Jaffe, Sterling Hayden, James Whitmore, and Jean Hagen, led Bosley Crow­ther to lament, “If only it all weren’t so corrupt!” But the characters of Bur­nett, Maddow and Huston, don’t permit us to romanticize about them or their activities. We share their professional pride in a robbery well planned and are silent accomplices to their mutual treachery.


The Asphalt Jungle was nominated for best screenplay by the Motion Picture Academy and for best-written American drama by the Writers Guild. John Hus­ton received a nomination for best direc­tor by the Academy. As a novel, The Asphalt Jungle has been translated into twelve languages.

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About the author (1980)

W. R. Burnett is a novelist and screenplay writer who lives in West Hollywood, California. Among his many novels are The Great Escape and The Roar of the Crowd.

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