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A Child of the Century

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  62 ratings  ·  12 reviews
Ben Hecht’s critically acclaimed autobiographical memoir, first published in 1954, offers incomparably pungent evocations of Chicago in the 1910s and 1920s, Hollywood in the 1930s, and New York during the Second World War and after.

“His manners are not always nice, but then nice manners do not always make interesting autobiographies, and this autobiography has the merit
Paperback, 680 pages
Published February 11th 2020 by Yale University Press (first published 1954)
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Buttered popcorn -- a junk food you can't stop eating, that's the Ben Hecht movie version of his life. And why Hecht ? Coauthor w Charles MacArthur of Broadway hits, The Front Page and Twentieth Century, and scripter of Nothing Sacred, Spellbound and Notorious, among others, he's also the uncredited writer on just about every entertaining movie made during the 30s-40s. He shaped Hollywood and Hollywood defined America.

The School of Hecht : smart, independent babes duet w sardonic, wisecrackers
David Gustafson
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ben Hecht was a newspaperman, playwright and screenwriter who finished his writing career by placing his propaganda skills at the service of the Irgun freedom fighters helping to rid Palestine of the British.

His play and the movie version of "Front Page" is considered a twentieth century classic about tabloid journalists who had much more honor and character than today's PC wankers writing their soapy, pink gargle for the NYT, WaPo or CNN.

Hecht's memoir, "A Child of the Century," is jam-packed
Kit Fox
Jul 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Guess it should come as little surprise that one of the greatest screenwriters of all time would write such a fascinating autobiography. Almost more a book of philosophy than a memoir, Hecht doesn't get to his time in Hollywood till, like, page 400-and-something. But who cares? By then he'd lived enough for seventeen lives. His accounts of post-WW I Germany were really fascinating, and I didn't know about all he did to champion the cause of Jews before, during, and after WW II. Full of more ...more
Joshua Buhs
A very good and very interesting autobiography. The book starts with a bang--not the usual, I was born here and at this time stuff, but meditations upon god and self--that are punchy and interesting. Hecht then moves on to cover his life, relying more on anecdote than chronology. The stories are often quite good.
He is a dripping misogynist, but fortunately his thoughts on women do not undermine the structure of the autobiography. Surprisingly, he's fairly conservative, too--he is very much for
Julien Gorbach
Jan 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an amazing book, and it's a crime that it's out of print. It's not perfect--Hecht could have done with a tough editor and there are a few passages that can be skipped, but Child is packed with great stories and truly astonishing prose. Full of mystery, beauty and history, this book will take you places...
Nov 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Yes
Shelves: biography
well, if you're a fan of the great Ben Hecht, you'll love this book. He was a wise, funny and prolific writer. Nice blurb in there about himself, David O Selznic and Victor Flemming writing the screenplay to Gone With The Wind. Locked in Sleznic's office eating peanuts and bananas for 5 days. Great insight to a great man.
Fred Andersen
Not sure how much of this is literally true, and how much is embellishment, but there's no doubt Ben Hecht was a heckuva writer and a keen observer of some fascinating times. His tales of big city newsrooms and his reporting on post WW1 Germany; his immersion in the world of New York intellectuals and artists in the 1920s, and in golden-age Hollywood; and his inside account of the formation of the nation of Israel are all gripping.
Tom Stamper
Oct 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Remarkable memoir from maybe the greatest screenwriter of all-time. He lived such an interesting life that Hollywood is covered in a single chapter.
Oct 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So interesting. Especially the newspaper days in Chicago.
May 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really excellent even outside his reluctant time in Hollywood. He only scratches the surface regarding his friend Charles MacArthur, so I think I'll read Hecht's biography of him next.
Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic, fantabulous read!
Thomas S
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Please see comment. The roughly 110 pages on the Committee has the makings of a great film -- and not what the "party line" of historians other than Raul Hilberg has been.
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Ben Hecht was an American screenwriter, director, producer, playwright, journalist, and novelist. A journalist in his youth, he went on to write 35 books and some of the most entertaining screenplays and plays in America. He received screen credits, alone or in collaboration, for the stories or screenplays of some seventy films.
“A wise man will always allow a fool to rob him of ideas without yelling “Thief.”
If he is wise he has not been impoverished.
Nor has the fool been enriched.
The thief flatters us by stealing.
We flatter him by complaining.”
“I know that a man who tries to convert me to any cause
is actually at work on his own conversion,
unless he is looking for funds under the mask of some fancied nobility.”
More quotes…