Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Hecht, Ben

(1893-1964) US journalist and writer, best-known as a playwright (often in collaboration with Charles MacArthur) and screenwriter. The fervent radicalism which had to be held in check in his commercial work gained expression in other, scaldingly sarcastic fictions, of which the best and most extreme is the Joris-Karl Huysmans-inspired Fantazius Mallare: A Mysterious Oath (1922), which offers a lurid account of the eponymous artist's descent into madness. The illustrations by Wallace Smith captured the book's selfconscious Decadence perfectly, and got the book banned. In the phantasmagoric sequel, The Kingdom of Evil: A Continuation of the Journal of Fantazius Mallare (1924), the disparate fragments of Mallare's shattered personality prepare a temple for the God Synthemus. BH's interest in Multiple Personalities was further reflected in his baroque murder mystery The Florentine Dagger (1923). The stories in A Book of Miracles (coll 1939), mostly reprinted in The Collected Short Stories of Ben Hecht (coll 1945), include several skittish comedies – e.g., "The Heavenly Choir", in which the spirits of the dead interrupt radio broadcasts – and two moralistic novellas based in religious folklore: "Death of Eleazer", about the supernaturally diverted trial of a US Nazi, and a notable exercise in literary Satanism (> Satan), "Remember Thy Creator", in which Archangel Michael is sent to Earth to bring mortals closer to God but realizes they have little to gain from such closeness. The sentimental Miracle in the Rain (1943 chap) presumably began life as a treatment for the 1954 movie it eventually became; BH's other work for the movies included scripts for several Psychological Thrillers – including Spellbound (1945) dir Alfred Hitchcock, The Specter of the Rose (1946) dir BH, and a quirky fantasy of redemption, The Scoundrel (1935), written with Noël Coward (1899-1973). [BS]

other works: The Wonder Hat: A Harlequinade in One Act (1920 chap) with Kenneth Sawyer Goodman; The Bewitched Tailor (1941 chap); The Cat that Jumped out of the Story (1947 chap).

Ben Hecht

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This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.