Robert Riskin


Biography of Robert Riskin

Robert Riskin (March 30, 1897 – September 20, 1955) was an American screenwriter and playwright, best known for his collaborations with director-producer Frank Capra.

Riskin began his career as a playwright, writing for many local New York City playhouses. Two of his plays, Bless You, Sister and Many a Slip, managed to have successful runs on Broadway. He moved to Hollywood in 1931 after Columbia Pictures bought the screen rights to several of his plays. His first collaboration with director Frank Capra came in 1931 with the Barbara Stanwyck vehicle The Miracle Woman.

Although Riskin wrote a number of other films for Columbia, it was his string of hit ventures with Capra that brought him acclaim. Riskin received Academy Award nominations for his screenplays for the Capra films Lady for a Day (1933), Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), You Can't Take It with You (1938), and Here Comes the Groom (1951). He was awarded the Oscar for his much-lauded screenplay for 1934's It Happened One Night.

By 1941, when Capra directed Riskin's Meet John Doe, the screenwriter had tired of Capra's knack for taking credit for Riskin's work. After several confrontations with the director while working on Meet John Doe, Riskin never willingly collaborated with Capra again. (According to Hollywood legend, he brandished a blank page in Capra's face and challenged: "Put the famous Capra touch on that!") In 1945, Riskin wrote the story for The Thin Man Goes Home and had an uncredited collaboration on the 1946 film noir classic The Strange Love of Martha Ivers. The following year, he wrote and produced the minor James Stewart hit Magic Town. Directed by William Wellman, Magic Town has a similar flavor and tone to Riskin's Capra-directed films.

Just prior to World War II, Riskin became an associate producer for Samuel Goldwyn, and in 1942 joined the Office of War Information (where he organized the OWI's overseas division).

Riskin directed only one film, When You're in Love, a minor musical starring Grace Moore and Cary Grant. Unsuccessful at the box office, When You're in Love is now remembered (if at all) for an unusual publicity stunt: silent film-star Louise Brooks was given a chance at a comeback by appearing as a chorus girl in this movie.

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