Nunnally Johnson letters

Nunnally Johnson letters

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Hargrett Manuscripts
Creator: Johnson, Nunnally
Title: Nunnally Johnson letters
Dates: 1946-1977
Quantity: 0.1 Linear feet (1 folder)
Coll. Number: ms3372

Biographical/Historical Note

Nunnally Johnson was born on December 5, 1897. His father worked as a superintendent for the Central of Georgia Railway, and his mother was an activist on the local school board. Johnson grew up and attended school in Columbus, Georgia. In his youth, he delivered on his bicycle the Columbus Enquirer-Sun, attended theatrical productions at the Springer Opera House, and played first base on the high school baseball team. After graduating from Columbus High School in 1915, Johnson worked briefly as a reporter for the Columbus Enquirer-Sun before moving to Savannah to work for the Savannah Press. He continued to visit Columbus annually until his father's death in 1953.

In 1919 Johnson moved to New York City and by the mid-1920s had emerged as one of the city's leading newspapermen, reporting major national events for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (1919-25), the New York Herald Tribune (1926), and the New York Evening Post (1927-30). At the Evening Post, he also penned a weekly column of humorous social commentary under the heading "Roving Reporter." From 1925 to 1932 he published some fifty short stories in the Saturday Evening Post and several stories in the New Yorker. These writings were mostly light satirical pieces depicting contemporary manners and mores in New York City and in a fictionalized version of Columbus that he called Riverside. Three of his stories won O. Henry Memorial Awards in the late 1920s.

In 1931 he published a collection of his stories, There Ought to Be a Law. In 1932 Johnson moved to Los Angeles, California, where he worked as a screenwriter for Twentieth Century Fox. Among the dozens of scripts he wrote, he excelled at converting novels into screenplays. His most successful efforts included screenplays for John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath (1940) and The Moon Is Down (1943); The Keys of the Kingdom (1944) and The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit (1956), both of which starred Gregory Peck; Daphne du Maurier's My Cousin Rachel (1952); and his final screenplay, The Dirty Dozen (1967).

He worked in other genres as well. Among his most popular productions were the musical Rose of Washington Square (1939) and the comedy How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), one of actress Marilyn Monroe's earliest films. By the 1950s he was the highest-paid screenwriter in Hollywood. Two of Johnson's most important adaptations were of Georgia-based stories: Erskine Caldwell's Tobacco Road (1941), his third partnership with the director John Ford, and The Three Faces of Eve (1957), based on a true case of a Georgia woman with multiple personality disorder. That film, which Johnson also produced and directed, earned an Academy Award for actress Joanne Woodward, a Thomasville native, in her first starring role. In 2006 the Writers Guilds of America, east and west, named Johnson's adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath on their list of the 101 greatest screenplays. --- New Georgia Encyclopedia. ( Retrieved 1/11/2010.

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of primarily of letters written by Nunnally Johnson, but a few clippings and other types of documents are also included. The earliest letter, dating from December 1946 (only "Tuesday" appears in the heading), is written on Johnson's personalized stationery and addressed to movie columnist Louella Davis. Johnson discusses the Christmas party he hosted and thanks Louella for her mention of The Dark Mirror in Cosmopolitan. Two of the letters, both from April 1952, are written to director George Cukor regarding the casting and filming of Daphne du Maurier's My Cousin Rachel. Another letter, dated January 22, 1958, is written to Jimmy Starr concerning the Academy Awards and Joanne Woodward. The letters to Cukor and Starr were typed on 20th Century Fox pictorial stationery. There is a series of personal letters between Johnson and his friend, director, and author Robert Parrish from the 1970s. There is a also a letter to Leon Jaworski, U. S. Special Prosecutor during Watergate, in which Johnson gives his opions on a suitable punishment for President Nixon.


Arranged in chronological order.

Index Terms

Academy Awards (Motion pictures)
Cukor, George, 1899-1983
Jaworski, Leon
Johnson, Nunnally -- Correspondence
Parrish, Robert
Parsons, Louella, 1881-1972
Signatures (names)
Starr, Jimmy -- Correspondence
Watergate Affair, 1972-1974.
Woodward, Joanne, 1930-

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Nunnally Johnson letters, ms 3372, Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, The University of Georgia Libraries.

Series Descriptions and Folder Listing