Gene Fowler

Gene Fowler (born Eugene Devlan) (March 8, 1890 – July 2, 1960) was an American journalist, author, and dramatist.


He was born in Denver, Colorado. When his mother remarried during his youth, he took his stepfather's name to become Gene Fowler. Fowler's career had a false start in taxidermy, which he later claimed gave him a permanent distaste for red meat. After a year at the University of Colorado, he took a job with The Denver Post. His assignments included an interview with the frontiersman and Wild West Show promoter Buffalo Bill Cody. He established his trademark impertinence by questioning Cody about his many love affairs.

Subsequently, Fowler worked for the New York Daily Mirror and then became newspaper syndication manager for King Features. His later work included more than a dozen screenplays, mostly written in the 1930s, and a number of books, including biographies and memoirs.

During his years in Hollywood, Fowler became close to such celebrities as John Barrymore and W. C. Fields. Fields, whose animus toward children is legendary, claimed that Fowler's sons were the only children he could stand.

In 1916, Fowler married Agnes Hubbard, who bore three children, the eldest of whom was Gene Fowler Jr. (1917–1998), a prominent Hollywood film editor (whose work included It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and Hang 'Em High) and a sometime director (1957's I Was a Teenage Werewolf as well as numerous television programs). , Gene Fowler died in Los Angeles, California, aged 70..


Fowler was the subject of many colorful anecdotes. One told by his son Will, concerns a scene outside of John Barrymore's hospital room in May 1942.

A stranger entered the waiting room where [John] Decker and Fowler were sitting with reporters. "I am a healer," cried the stranger. "Just give me three minutes with Mr. Barrymore and I will cure him!" There was a moment of silence until Fowler arose, snatched the seemingly demented fellow by the scruff of his collar and threw him down the stairs, calling after him, "Physician, heal thyself!"

Fowler was present at Barrymore's death, and he claimed (perhaps not seriously) that Barrymore's last words, spoken to Fowler, were: "Is it true that you're the illegitimate son of Buffalo Bill?"


  • Trumpet in the Dust. NY: Horace Liveright, 1930. [semi-autobiographical novel about a newspaperman]
  • Shoe the Wild Mare. NY: Horace Liveright, 1931. [novel]
  • A Solo in Tom-Toms. NY: Covici-Friede, 1931. [memoir of his early life in Colorado]
  • The Great Mouthpiece: The Life of William J. Fallon. NY: Covici-Friede, 1931.
  • The Demi-Wang, by “Peter Long” (pseud.). Privately printed for subscribers, 1931. [erotica]
  • Timber Line: A Story of Bonfils and Tammen. NY: Covici-Friede, 1933. [a biography of The Denver Post]
  • The Great Magoo (co-authored with Ben Hecht). NY: Covici-Friede, 1933. [a play in 3 acts]
  • Father Goose: The Story of Mack Sennett. NY: Covici-Friede, 1934.
  • The Mighty Barnum: A Screenplay (co-authored with Bess Meredyth). NY: Covici-Friede, 1934. [filmed by 20th Century Pictures, 1934]
  • Salute to Yesterday. NY: Random House, 1937. [about Denver in the late 19th and early 20th centuries]
  • Illusion in Java. NY: Random House, 1939. [novel]
  • The Jervis Bay Goes Down. NY: Random House, 1941. [narrative poem]
  • Good Night, Sweet Prince: The Life and Times of John Barrymore. NY: The Viking Press, 1944.
  • Beau James: The Life and Times of Jimmy Walker. NY: The Viking Press, 1949.
  • Schnozzola: The Story of Jimmy Durante. NY: The Viking Press, 1951.
  • Minutes of the Last Meeting. NY; Random House, 1954. [a portrait of some of his associates in Hollywood, notably critic and poet Sadakichi Hartmann; also featuring W.C. Fields, John Barrymore and artist John Decker]
  • Skyline: A Reporter’s Reminiscence of the 1920s. NY: The Viking Press, 1961.


Fowler wrote or co-wrote screenplays for the following movies (partial list).

Other of his works that became the basis for films include his stage play The Great Magoo, which was filmed as Shoot the Works (1934), and the book Beau James: The Life & Times of Jimmy Walker, which was the basis for Beau James (1957).

Memorable quotations

Fowler authored many witticisms both spoken and written. Two regarding the art of writing might suffice:

  • "Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead."
  • "The best way to become a successful writer is to read good writing, remember it, and then forget where you remember it from."


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