Charles Grayson (born Charles Wright Gray 1903) was a screenwriter from California.
My first post about Grayson resulted from an interest in noir writers and the discovery of a book about noir writers. In the book, I found little known author and screen writer, P.J Wolfson, and his early writing collaborator, Allen Rivkin. A common thread among these writers was a friendship with the famous Hollywood director, John Huston, who lead me to Charles Grayson. Called out west by Hollywood to work , P.J. Wolfson and Allen Rivkin started writing scripts together in the early 1930’s.
A native Californian, Charles Grayson graduated from UCLA in 1926 with a degree in English. Here’s a link to his UCLA graduation photo (Thanks to Charlotte Brown at the UCLA university archives for help in finding this source). At UCLA, he was a member of Kaps and Bells (drama) and served as the Literature committee chairman .
All three screenwriters were very young men and about the same age as they began work in a Golden Era of Hollywood.
Charles Grayson had already published a few anthologies under his birth name, Charles Wright Gray. His father’s name was Lucien D.C. Gray. It is therefore likely he changed his surname to Grayson perhaps because “Gray” was too bland (but I don’t know why he changed it).
He had two sisters. One of whom, Evelyn, was married to Tom Mix’s lawyer Ivon Drouth Parker (d. 1953) who was a thoroughbreed horse breeder, member of the Los Angeles Breakfast Club, and founder of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Posse.
[source: Los Angeles Times, Chatterbox, Dec. 29, 1935]
Before his stints in Hollywood, Charles Grayson did some world traveling and furthered his education by attending Harvard and the Sorbonne [source: Charles Grayson obit.- The New York Times May 9, 1973]. In Paris, he was encouraged to write by Scott Fitzgerald, Michel Arlen, and Erskine Gwynne, publisher of the Boulevardier magazine.
Eventually Grayson, Rivkin, and Wolfson, would all three become friends of director John Huston. In his book Hello Hollywood! written with his wife Laura Kerr, Allen Rivkin talks about meeting and working with John Huston and shenanigans that took place on the studio lot with P.J. Wolfson. Also in his book Hello Hollywood!, Allen Rivkin published a small account written by Charles Grayson about working with John Huston on a film set.
Charles Grayson and director John Huston shared a love for turning literature into film. No other Hollywood director faithfully has adapted so many literary works to the big screen. Huston directed and filmed The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Red Badge of Courage, The African Queen, Moby Dick, A Farewell to Arms, The Night of The Iguana, The Man Who Would Be King, Wise Blood, and The Dead.
Along with John Huston, Charles Grayson joined the service in WWII. Stationed in Italy, they were part of the staff that filmed war time action under the direction of Frank Capra. Huston and Grayson remained lifelong friends and later worked on the film project The Barbarian and the Geisha together.
Here’s a photo of Captain Charles Grayson hanging out with John Huston during WWII:
Humphrey Bogart mentions it in a preface to The Fourth Round, “I even encountered it among the troops of World War II in the overseas edition issued by the Special Services Editions people – shows how well it found friends”.
Charles Grayson would have been the best man at the 1946 wedding of John Huston (below left) and Evelyn Keyes, Columbia star, if they had had a church wedding. But John and Evelyn eloped to Las Vegas on the spur of the moment and forgot to notify the best man until they returned to Hollywood. So this is a photograph of the prospective best man’s kiss to the bride on the set of JOHNNY O’CLOCK, while the groom stands by, lips puckered, awaiting his turn.
After the war, Charles was briefly married to the pulchritudinous Daye Eliot (born Evelyn Crowell). The marriage lasted until late 1946 or early 1947 ( the April 1947 Star-Journal says he was given the “Reno Routine” by Daye).
Mentioned frequently in the Hollywood gossip columns, Charles dated several women including Irene Hervey, Carole Stone, Greta Nissen, June Knight, Nancy Carroll, June Storey, film noir actress Audrey Totter (below) and Joan Crawford.
Apparently, Hollywood actresses, the war, carousing and working with John Huston wasn’t enough because his wanderlust got the better of him. He hung out with the King of Cambodia which he fictionalized in his novel The Broken Gate.
He later married his second wife, Paddy Yeatts, and died at the age of 69 in 1973.
Besides his anthologies, he published several novels:
- Spotlight Madness – H. Liveright, 1931
- Everything Goes – Macaulay Company, 1932
- Flight South – Doubleday, 1935
- The Show Case – Green Circle Books, 1936
- Angel Town– Doubleday, 1946
- Venus Rising – Holt, 1954
- Hollywood Doctor – Ace Books, 1954
Angel Town takes place in Los Angeles. In the book, he makes comparisons with the Los Angeles he knew as a youth.
“Now a sprawling pseudo metropolis, materially prosperous in its buildings and streets and formal parks, it was if a vivid wayward child had grown up into being an emotionally blowzy woman. Uncertain food had gone into its development. Too many vagrants had fed it, too many people with little money and a huge desire to spend their remaining days in a temperate zone; too many of those who wanted nothing more than to get along. The town’s climate was too favourable to keep it from invasion, its defenses too lax to keep it self-contained.” – excerpt from Angel Town
My copy of Angel Town was signed to Max Wilk who was a screenwriter himself and published Schmucks with Underwoods – Conversations with Hollywood’s Classic Screenwriters – Hal Leonard Corporation , 2004 .
The Broken Gate – Doubleday,1948
Arena – Rinehart, 1958
“Because Charles Grayson, the novelist, is blessed with a sense of humor, he came to an unexpected fortune.” – George Tucker
The Fourth Round- Holt, New York, 1953
Venus Rising – New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1954