Biography of Samson Raphaelson
Samson Raphaelson (b. New York City; 1894–1983) was a leading American playwright, screenwriter and short story author in the first half of the 20th century. Over a single weekend he transformed his short story “Day of Atonement” into his first play, The Jazz Singer. Following its successful run on Broadway, Warner Brothers studios made it into the first talking motion picture in 1927, starring Al Jolson. Although Raphaelson’s immense admiration of Jolson as a stage performer had inspired his short story “Day of Atonement,” he did not write the screenplay of The Jazz Singer, preferring to concentrate on writing for the stage.
In the 1930s, however, he became active in Hollywood as well as on Broadway. His screenplays for Ernst Lubitsch, perhaps that era’s most admired director of sophisticated comedies, included “Trouble in Paradise,” The Shop Around the Corner, and Heaven Can Wait. They prompted this accolade from Pauline Kael, the eminent film critic of The New Yorker:
Raphaelson took the giddiest inspirations and then polished his dialogue until it had the gleam of appliquéd butterfly wings on a Ziegfield girl’s toque, but the skeletal strength of his screenplays was what made it possible for the ideas and the words to take flight.
One of Raphaelson’s best known screenplays is Suspicion (1941), directed by Alfred Hitchcock. In 1977, Raphaelson received the Laurel Award for lifetime achievement in screenwriting from the Writers Guild of America.