Screenwriter, Film writer
1897 – 1964
Who was Jo Swerling?
Born in Berdichev, Russian Empire, Swerling was a refugee of the Czarist regime who grew up on New York City's lower East Side, where he sold newspapers to help support his family. He worked as a newspaper and magazine writer in the early 1920s, then launched a playwriting career, including Street Cinderella, an early comedy for the Marx Brothers. He also wrote their first movie, the unreleased silent comedy short film Humor Risk. He scored a major success with the book and lyrics for the musical revue The New Yorkers and the play The Kibitzer, the latter co-written with actor Edward G. Robinson.
Swerling was brought to Hollywood by Columbia Pictures chief Harry Cohn to work on the screenplay for Frank Capra's Ladies of Leisure, the first of several collaborations with the director. His dozens of screenplays in the 1930s and 40s include Platinum Blonde, Behind the Mask, Once to Every Woman, The Pride of the Yankees, Lifeboat, Leave Her to Heaven, and It's a Wonderful Life. He also provided some uncredited writing for the Gone with the Wind screenplay.