The Woman Behind Star Wars
Today is Star Wars Day (May the 4th be with you), providing Charlie Jane Anders to tell the story of Leigh Brackett, a 1940s science fiction novelist, mentor to Ray Bradbury, and screenwriter of the first draft of “The Empire Strikes Back.” She died of cancer before shooting started and George Lucas made some rather major changes. But she’s an interesting character and the feature is well worth a read.
Interestingly, Brackett also co-wrote the screenplay for “Rio Bravo,” one of my favorite John Wayne movies. (Also, “El Dorado,” which is essentially the same movie.)
Notably, she also finished The Big Sleep when William Faulkner fell into a bottle. There’s a crisp “Battle of the Sexes” quality to Brackett scripts. Other Brackett screenplays include Hatari, Rio Lobo, and The Long Goodbye. I think the hard-to-find B movie with a Brackett script, The Vampire’s Ghost, is a little gem (with one great performance).
Rio Bravo and El Dorado didn’t start out as the same movie. Too many of the same team were involved (director Howard Hawks, star John Wayne, wrtier Leigh Brackett). When working on El Dorado Hawks or Wayne would say to Brackett “Do you remember that great scene in Rio Bravo such and such? We need something like that here.” And it eventually evolved into the same movie.
I was a big fan of Leigh Brackett’s space operas long before I was aware she had written movie scripts.
@Dave Schuler: At the linked article, there’s an amusing conversation between Brackett and Lucas along those lines:
Thanks for the link. Here’s something else about Brackett that’s been sitting in my open tabs for a while; maybe I’ll get around to reading both today.