Howard Koch (screenwriter)

Howard E. Koch (December 12, 1901 – August 17, 1995)[1][2][3] was an American playwright and screenwriter who was blacklisted by the Hollywood film studio bosses in the 1950s.

Howard Koch
BornDecember 12, 1901
New York City, New York
DiedAugust 17, 1995 (1995-08-18) (aged 93)
Woodstock, New York

Early years

Born to a Jewish family[4] in New York City, Koch grew up in Kingston, New York, and was a graduate of St. Stephen's College (later renamed Bard College) and Columbia Law School.

Career as writer

Writing for stage and radio

While practicing law in Hartsdale, New York, he began to write plays. Great Scott (1929), Give Us This Day (1933), and In Time to Come (1941) were produced on Broadway.[5]

His radio work in the 1930s as a writer for the CBS Mercury Theater of the Air included the Orson Welles radio drama The War of the Worlds (1938), which caused nationwide panic among some listeners for its documentary-like portrayal of an invasion of spaceships from Mars. Koch later wrote a play about the panic, Invasion From Mars, which was later adapted into the 1975 TV movie, The Night That Panicked America, in which actor Joshua Bryant plays Koch.

Screenwriting and blacklisting

Koch began writing for Hollywood studios. His first accepted screenplay was made into a 1940 film. Koch contributed to the popular film Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart, which he co-scripted with writers Julius and Philip Epstein in 1942, and for which he received an Academy Award in 1944. He also wrote Shining Victory (1941) and Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948), his favorite screenplay.

In 1943, at the request of Jack L. Warner of Warner Bros., Koch wrote the screenplay for Mission to Moscow (1943). The movie subsequently spawned controversy because of its positive portrayal of Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union. After the war, Koch was fired by Jack Warner after Koch was denounced as a Communist. He was then criticized by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) for his outspoken leftist political views. Koch was blacklisted by Hollywood in 1951.

After being blacklisted, Koch moved with his wife Anne (an accomplished writer in her own right) and their family to Europe and eventually took up residence in the United Kingdom with other blacklisted writers, where they wrote for five years for film and television (The Adventures of Robin Hood among them) under the pseudonyms "Peter Howard" and "Anne Rodney".[6] In 1956, they returned to the United States and settled in Woodstock, New York,[7] where he continued to write plays and books and remained actively committed to progressive political and social justice causes.

Howard Koch died in 1995 in Kingston, New York.[8]



  • "Invasion from Mars", (with Orson Welles) (pl) CBS, October 30, 1938.


  • "Invasion from Mars", ed. Orson Welles, Dell 1949.
  • "The Panic Broadcast", Little, Brown and Company 1970, Avon Books 1971.
  • "Casablanca: Script and Legend", Overlook Press 1973.
  • "As Time Goes By: Memoirs of a Writer", Harcourt Brace Jovanovich 1979.

Short story:

  • "Invasion from Inner Space", in Star Science Fiction Stories #6, ed. Frederik Pohl, Ballantine 1959.


  • Invaders of Earth, ed. Groff Conklin, Vanguard 1952, Pocket 1955, Tempo 1962.
  • The Treasury of Science Fiction Classics, ed. Harold W. Kuebler, Hanover House 1954.
  • The Armchair Science Reader, ed. Isabel S. Gordon & Sophie Sorkin, Simon & Schuster 1959.
  • Enemies in Space, ed. Groff Conklin, Digit 1962.
  • Contact, ed. Noel Keyes, Paperback Library 1963.
  • Speculations, ed. Thomas E. Sanders, Glencoe Press 1973.
  • Bug-Eyed Monsters, ed. Anthony Cheetham, Panther 1974.


  1. New York City Births, 1891-1902 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2000.
  2. Social Security Death Index.
  3. U.S. Census, January 1, 1920. State of New York, County of Ulster, enumeration district 174, p. 8A, family 218.
  4. Tablet Magazine: "The Brothers Who Co-Wrote ‘Casablanca’ - Writers Julius and Philip Epstein are also forebears of baseball’s Theo Epstein" by Adam Chandler August 22, 2013
  5. Internet Broadway Database.
  6. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-05-28. Retrieved 2010-04-08.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. U.S.: Selected Jewish Obituaries, 1948-2002 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2008.
  8. Mel Gussow, "Howard Koch, a Screenwriter For 'Casablanca,' Dies at 93", The New York Times, August 18, 1995, p. D17.
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