Fri . 19 May 2019

David Goodis

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David Loeb Goodis March 2, 1917 – January 7, 1967 was an American writer of crime fiction, noted for his prolific output of short stories and novels epitomizing the noir fiction genre A native of Philadelphia, Goodis alternately resided there and in New York City and Hollywood during his professional years Yet, throughout his life, he maintained a deep identification with the city of his birth, Philadelphia Goodis cultivated the skid row neighborhoods of his home town, using what he observed to craft his hard-boiled sagas of lives gone wrong, realized in dark portrayals of a blighted urban landscape teeming with criminal life and human despair

According to critic Dennis Drabelle, "Despite his education, a combination of ethnicity Jewish and temperament allowed him to empathize with outsiders: the working poor, the unjustly accused, fugitives, criminals"


  • 1 Biography
    • 11 Early life
    • 12 Pulp magazines
    • 13 Radio and screenplays
    • 14 Marriage and divorce
    • 15 Return to Philadelphia
  • 2 The Fugitive and the lawsuit
  • 3 Influence
  • 4 Bibliography
  • 5 Filmography
  • 6 References
  • 7 External links


Early life

Goodis was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the oldest child of William Goodis and Mollie Halpern Goodis William Goodis was a Russian-Jewish émigré born in 1882, who had arrived in America with his mother in 1890 David Goodis's mother Mollie Halpern was born in Pennsylvania also into a family of Russian-Jewish émigrés In Philadelphia, Goodis's father co-owned a newspaper dealership and later went into the textile business as the William Goodis Company A brother, Jerome, born in 1920, died of meningitis at age three In 1922, another brother, Herbert, was born into the family

In high school Goodis was engaged in student affairs, editing the school newspaper, serving as student council president, and participating in athletics as a member of both the track and swim teams He also had the distinction of being chosen valedictorian for the graduating class of 1935, delivering a speech entitled "Youth Looks at Peace" As a college student, he continued and expanded on the interests he had pursued as a high school student, contributing to the student newspaper as both writer and cartoonist It was during this period he purportedly attempted his hand at novel writing, a book titled Ignited The novel was never published, and no copy of it has been discovered Goodis later claimed: "The title was prophetic Eventually, I threw it into the furnace" Goodis graduated from Temple University in 1938 with a degree in journalism

Pulp magazines

While working at an advertising agency, Goodis started writing his first novel, Retreat from Oblivion After it was published by Dutton in 1939, Goodis moved to New York City, where he wrote under several pseudonyms for pulp magazines, including Battle Birds, Daredevil Aces, Dime Mystery, Horror Stories, Terror Tales and Western Tales, sometimes churning out 10,000 words a day The first pulp story published under his own name appeared in Gangland Detective Stories November 1939, titled "Mistress of the White Slave King" Over a five-and-a-half-year period, according to some sources, he produced five million words for the pulp magazines While the quantity of his output far eclipses that of his predecessors Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, unlike theirs, the vast majority of his pulp stories have never been reprinted

Radio and screenplays

During the 1940s, Goodis scripted for radio adventure serials, including Hop Harrigan, House of Mystery, and Superman Novels he wrote during the early 1940s were rejected by publishers, but in 1942 he spent some time in Hollywood as one of the screenwriters on Universal's Destination Unknown His big break came in 1946 when his novel Dark Passage was serialized in The Saturday Evening Post, published by Julian Messner and filmed for Warner Bros with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall heading the cast Delmer Daves directed what is now regarded as a classic film noir, and a first edition of the 1946 hardcover is valued at more than $800

Arriving in Hollywood, Goodis signed a six-year contract with Warner Brothers, working on story treatments and scripts In 1947, Goodis wrote the script for The Unfaithful, a remake of Somerset Maugham's The Letter Some of his scripts were never produced, such as Of Missing Persons and an adaptation of Raymond Chandler's The Lady in the Lake Working with director Delmer Daves, he wrote a screen treatment for a film, Up Till Now, which Daves described as "giving people a look at themselves and their heritage" This film too was never made but Goodis used some of its elements in his 1954 novel, The Blonde on the Street Corner

Goodis is also credited with writing the screenplay to The Burglar, a 1957 film noir directed by Paul Wendkos that was based on his 1953 novel published by Lion Books It was the only solely authored screenplay to be produced by him The film was written and directed by Philadelphians, as well as being shot in Philadelphia Dan Duryea and Jayne Mansfield were cast in the lead roles, and The Burglar still stands as one of the greatest heist films ever made It was re-made in 1971, though rather unfaithfully, by Henri Verneuil as the French-Italian film Le Casse, starring Omar Sharif and Jean-Paul Belmondo

Marriage and divorce

Until recently, it was generally believed that Goodis never married His friend Harold "Dutch" Silver said Goodis never spoke of a wife, and no wife was mentioned in Goodis's obituary Attorney correspondence also repeatedly stated that Goodis never married

However, research by Larry Withers and Louis Boxer has produced a marriage license for Goodis and Elaine Astor It shows that they were married on October 7, 1943 by Rabbi Jacob Samuel Robins, PhD, at Ohev Shalom Congregation, 525 South Fairfax Avenue, Los Angeles According to a divorce decree found in the attic of Philadelphia's City Hall, Astor received a divorce on January 18, 1946

Withers is Astor's son by a later marriage He learned about her marriage to Goodis only after her death in 1986 from a stroke

Return to Philadelphia

In 1950, Goodis returned to Philadelphia where he lived with his parents and his schizophrenic brother Herbert At night, he prowled the underside of Philadelphia, hanging out in nightclubs and seedy bars, a milieu he depicted in his fiction Cassidy's Girl 1951 sold over a million copies, and he continued to write for paperback publishers, notably Gold Medal There was a renewed interest in his works when François Truffaut filmed his 1956 novel Down There as the acclaimed Shoot the Piano Player 1960

Goodis died at 11:30 pm on January 7, 1967, at Albert Einstein Medical Center, Northern Division, not far from his home He was 49 His death certificate lists "cerebral vascular accident," meaning a stroke, as the cause of death Days earlier, Goodis had been beaten while resisting a robbery Some have attributed his death to his injuries It is also said that he keeled over while shoveling snow He was buried in Roosevelt Memorial Park, in Pennsylvania

The Fugitive and the lawsuit

In 1963, ABC television began airing the television show The Fugitive, the fictional story of Richard Kimble, a doctor wrongfully convicted of murdering his wife In the plot, Kimble subsequently escapes and begins a long search for the "one-armed man", the person he believes to be the real killer

Goodis stated that The Fugitive was based on his novel Dark Passage In 1965, he sued United Artists-TV and ABC for $500,000, alleging copyright infringement His cousin's law firm, Goodis, Greenfield, Narin and Mann, represented him and several groups supported him, including the Author's League of America, the Dramatist's Guild, and the American Book Publishers Association Coudert Brothers represented United Artists and ABC

During a deposition on December 9, 1966, Goodis stated that The Saturday Evening Post had serialized Dark Passage, a fact that would become critical to the case

One month later, Goodis was dead The lawsuit continued to wind its way through the courts, however

The dispute did not so much concern whether the theme of Dark Passage had been used, but whether the book was in the public domain In a victory for UA and ABC, the District Court held that Goodis had, in effect, "donated his work to the public domain" when he published it in The Saturday Evening Post without using a copyright notice that listed his name

The Goodis estate appealed In 1970, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed the lower court's decision and remanded the case for trial The decision is reported at Goodis v United Artists Television, Inc, 425 F2d 397 2nd Cir 1970 The court wrote, "We unanimously conclude that where a magazine has purchased the right of first publication under circumstances which show that the author has no intention to donate his work to the public, copyright notice in the magazine's name is sufficient to obtain a valid copyright on behalf of the beneficial owner, the author or proprietor" 425 F2d 398-399

By then, Goodis's main beneficiary, his brother Herbert, was also dead So in 1972, the Goodis estate agreed that the case now had only "nuisance value" and accepted $12,000 to settle the matter Despite the significant difference between the initial claim and the final monetary settlement, the case is still regarded as a landmark decision in intellectual property rights and copyright law


After his death, his work went out of print in the United States, but he remained a popular favorite in France In 1987, Black Lizard began to reissue Goodis titles In 2007, Hard Case Crime published a new edition of The Wounded and the Slain for the first time in more than 50 years Also in 2007, Street of No Return and Nightfall were re-published by Millipede Press His novel Down There was reprinted as part of American Noir of the 1950s, in the Library of America In March 2012, the Library of America published a selection of Goodis's novels under the title, David Goodis: Five Noir Novels of the 1940s and 50s

Goodis has influenced contemporary crime fiction writers, notably Duane Swierczynski, and Ken Bruen A character in Jean-Luc Godard's 1966 film Made in USA was named after Goodis However, in Godard's 1972 film Tout va bien, the character Jacques played by Yves Montand, a filmmaker, says he moved into making commercials as more "honest" work when, after May 1968, he was asked to direct a film based on a Goodis detective novel and decided he couldn't see himself making something so stupid


  • Retreat from Oblivion 1939
  • Dark Passage 1946
  • Behold This Woman 1947
  • Nightfall 1947 aka Convicted, The Dark Chase
  • The Cop on the Corner 1947
  • Of Missing Persons 1950
  • Cassidy's Girl 1951
  • Of Tender Sin 1952
  • Street of the Lost 1952
  • The Burglar 1953
  • The Moon in the Gutter 1953
  • Black Friday 1954
  • The Blonde on the Street Corner 1954
  • Street of No Return 1954
  • The Wounded and the Slain 1955
  • Down There 1956 aka Shoot the Piano Player
  • Fire in the Flesh 1957
  • Night Squad 1961
  • Somebody's Done For 1967 ; alternate title : The Raving Beauty


Although Goodis's novels were occasionally adapted by Hollywood, it was mainly French filmmakers François Truffaut, René Clément, Jean-Jacques Beineix, who were interested in his work

The following is a list of adaptations in anti-chronological order

  • A Professional Man 1995 – adapted as part of the second series of Showtime's Fallen Angels aka Perfect Crimes
  • Street of No Return – d Samuel Fuller 1989
  • Descente aux enfers – d Francis Girod 1986 from The Wounded and the Slain
  • Rue barbare fr – d Gilles Behat 1983 from Street of the Lost
  • The Moon in the Gutter La Lune dans le Caniveau – d Jean-Jacques Beineix 1983
  • And Hope to Die original title La Course du lièvre à travers les champs – d René Clément 1972 from Black Friday and Raving Beauty
  • The Burglars Le Casse – d Henri Verneuil 1972 from The Burglar
  • The Alfred Hitchcock Hour – episode: "An Out for Oscar" broadcast April 5, 1963
  • Bourbon Street Beat – episode: "False Identity" broadcast May 23, 1960
  • Shoot the Piano Player Tirez sur la pianiste – d François Truffaut 1960 from Down There
  • The Burglar – d Paul Wendkos 1956 Goodis wrote the screenplay from his own novel
  • Nightfall – d Jacques Tourneur 1956
  • Sección desaparecidos es – d Pierre Chenal 1956 from Of Missing Persons
  • Dark Passage – d Delmer Daves 1947
  • The Unfaithful – 1947

A film adaptation of Cassidy's Girl was being developed by director Edward Holub in 2004

A filmography of works based on Goodis's novels is appended to Eddie Duggan's 1988 article, Life's a Bitch: Paranoia and Sexuality in the novels of David Goodis


  1. ^ Drabelle, Dennis May 24, 2012 "David Goodis's 'Five Noir Novels of the 1940s & 50s': Dark tales of losers" The Washington Post Retrieved October 11, 2012 
  2. ^ Goodis, David 2012 Polito, Robert, ed Goodis: Five Noir Novels of the 1940s & 50s Library of America p 793 ISBN 978-1-59853-148-0 
  3. ^ Goodis, David 2012 Polito, Robert, ed Goodis: Five Noir Novels of the 1940s & 50s Library of America p 795 ISBN 978-1-59853-148-0 
  4. ^ a b Withers, Larry "The Mysterious Elaine" Shooting pool with David Goodis Archived from the original on February 28, 2012 Retrieved November 18, 2012 
  5. ^ "Certificate of Marriage" Flickrcom Retrieved November 18, 2012 
  6. ^ "Divorce Decree" Flickrcom Retrieved November 18, 2012 
  7. ^ "The Fugitive" Shooting pool with David Goodis Archived from the original on March 14, 2016 Retrieved November 18, 2012 
  8. ^ "Cassidy's Girl" cassidysgirlcom Archived from the original on March 28, 2004 
  9. ^ Duggan, Eddie 1998 "Life's a bitch: paranoia and sexuality in the novels of David Goodis" Crimetime 21: 14–20 – via Academiaedu 
  • Garnier, Philippe 2013 David Goodis: a Life in Black and White Black Pool Productions ISBN 978-0615817507  Originally published as Goodis, La Vie en Noir et Blanc Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1984
  • Sallis, James 1993 Difficult Lives: Jim Thompson, David Goodis, Chester Himes New York: Gryphon Books 

External links

  • Biography portal
  • David Goodis on IMDb
  • "Pulp According to David Goodis" Facebook 
  • "Resurrecting David Goodis: The Poet Of The Losers" DavidGoodiscom 
  • "A gallery of David Goodis book covers" Beatbookcoverscom 
  • Moore, Dave "David Goodis - Poet of the Losers" Beatbookcoverscom 
  • David Goodis at Find a Grave
  • Works by David Goodis at LibriVox public domain audiobooks

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