A. I. Bezzerides
A.I. Bezzerides, (August 9, 1908–January 1, 2007), was an American novelist and screenwriter, best known for writing Noir and Action motion pictures, especially several of Warners’ “social conscience” films of the 1940s.
He was born Albert Isaac Bezzerides in Samsun, Ottoman Empire (now in Turkey), to a Greek-Armenian family who immigrated to America before he was two. He wrote the novel The Long Haul (1938), which got him into the screenwriting business. He wrote such action feature movies as They Drive by Night (1940) – which was based on his novel, The Long Haul (1938), Desert Fury (1947), Thieves’ Highway (1949), On Dangerous Ground (1952), Track of the Cat (1954), and Kiss Me Deadly (1955). He was one of the co-creators of the western television series The Big Valley.
Bezzerides’ most famous script was Kiss Me Deadly, which was a masterful film noir and influenced many directors in France shortly after its release. Beezerides transformed the novel by Mickey Spillane into an apocalyptic, atomic-age paranoia film noir. When asked about his script, and his decision to make “the great whatsit” the Pandora’s Box objective of a ruthless cast of characters, Bezzerides commented:”People ask me about the hidden meanings in the script, about the A-bomb, about McCarthyism, what does the poetry mean, and so on. And I can only say that I didn’t think about it when I wrote it . . . I was having fun with it. I wanted to make every scene, every character, interesting. A girl comes up to Ralph Meeker, I make her a nympho. She grabs him and kisses him the first time she sees him. She says, “You don’t taste like anybody I know.” I’m a big car nut, so I put in all that stuff with the cars and the mechanic. I was an engineer, and I gave the detective the first phone answering machine in that picture. I was having fun.”
In 1940, Warner Bros. offered Bezzerides $2,000 for movie rights to his 1938 novel The Long Haul. He learned later that the script based on his book had already been written. The film, They Drive By Night, starred Humphrey Bogart and George Raft. Bezzerides’ second novel, Thieves’ Market (1949), was adapted to a film known as Thieves’ Highway, directed by Jules Dassin.
The studio also offered Bezzerides a contract to be a screenwriter at a salary of $300 a week. Bezzerides also worked alongside William Faulkner and befriended him. Also, Bezzerides, who at the time was working as a communications engineer for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, later wrote: “I had no idea whether it was guilt or conscience, or greed to swindle more stories out of me, that motivated Warner Bros. to offer me a seven-year contract … Whatever their reason, I grabbed their offer so I could quit my putrid career as a communications engineer by becoming a writer, writing scripts in an entirely new world.”
His first film credit was 1942’s Juke Girl, which starred Ann Sheridan and Ronald Reagan.
Bezzerides had begun writing short stories as a student at the University of California, Berkeley. At Berkeley, he studied Electrical Engineering. He was first published in a 1935 issue of Story Magazine, which printed his story titled Passage Into Eternity.