Waldo Salt

Waldo Miller Salt[1] (October 18, 1914 March 7, 1987) was an American screenwriter who won Academy Awards for both Midnight Cowboy and Coming Home.

Waldo Salt
Waldo Salt poster
Waldo Miller Salt

(1914-10-18)October 18, 1914
DiedMarch 7, 1987(1987-03-07) (aged 72)
Other namesArthur Behrstock
M.L. Davenport
Mel Davenport
Years active1937–1978
Spouse(s)Mary Davenport (19?? - 19??)
Gladys Schwartz (19?? - 19??)
Eve Merriam (19?? - March 7, 1987)

Early life and career

Salt was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Winifred (née Porter) and William Haslem Salt, an artist and business executive.[2] He graduated from Stanford University in 1934.[3] The first of the nineteen films he wrote (or participated in writing) was released in 1937 with the title The Bride Wore Red.

Salt's career in Hollywood was interrupted when he was blacklisted after refusing to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1951. Like many other blacklisted writers, while he was unable to work in Hollywood Salt wrote pseudonymously for the British television series The Adventures of Robin Hood.[4] After the collapse of the blacklist, Salt won Academy Awards for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium for his work on Midnight Cowboy and Coming Home, and a nomination for Serpico.

Salt is featured in the extras for the Criterion Collection's Midnight Cowboy blu-ray release, specifically in an audio interview with Michael Childers; many photos of Waldo Salt can be seen here as he was a collaborator for the screenplay. The documentary listed below, Waldo Salt: A Screenwriter's Journey, is also featured on the disc.

Personal life and death

Salt was married three times, first to actress Mary Davenport with whom he had two children, actress/writer/producer Jennifer, and Deborah. After his divorce from Davenport, he married Gladys Schwartz and later playwright Eve Merriam. He remained married to Merriam until his death in Los Angeles, aged 72, on March 7, 1987.


Waldo Salt was the subject of a 1990 documentary Waldo Salt: A Screenwriter's Journey, which featured interviews with Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Jon Voight, John Schlesinger and other collaborators and friends.

The Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award

The Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award, first presented in 1992, is awarded at the Sundance Film Festival annually. It is determined by the dramatic jury, and recognizes outstanding screenwriting in a film screened at the festival that year.[5] See List of Sundance Film Festival award winners for a list of winners.


Year Title Notes
1937 The Bride Wore Red Adaptation, uncredited
1938 The Shopworn Angel Screenplay
1939 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Dialogue, uncredited
1940 The Philadelphia Story Uncredited
1941 The Wild Man of Borneo Screenplay
1943 Tonight We Raid Calais
1944 Mr. Winkle Goes to War Alternative title: Arms and the Woman
1948 Rachel and the Stranger Screenplay
1950 The Flame and the Arrow
1951 M Additional dialogue
1961 Blast of Silence Narration written by, credited as Mel Davenport
1962 Taras Bulba
1964 Flight from Ashiya Alternative title: Ashiya kara no hiko
Wild and Wonderful
1969 Midnight Cowboy Screenplay
1971 The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight Alternative title: The Gang That Couldn't Shoot
1973 Serpico Screenplay
1975 The Day of the Locust Screenplay
1978 Coming Home
Year Title Notes
1955 Star Stage 1 episode
1956 Colonel March of Scotland Yard 2 episodes
1958 Swiss Family Robinson Television movie, credited as Mel Davenport
Ivanhoe 4 episodes
1961 Tallahassee 7000 1 episode
1964 Espionage 1 episode
1965 The Nurses 1 episode
1967 Coronet Blue 1 episode

Awards and nominations

Year Award Result Category Film or series
1949 Writers Guild of America Award Nominated Best Written American Western Rachel and the Stranger
1970 Won Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium Midnight Cowboy
1974 Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium Serpico (Shared with Norman Wexler)
1979 Best Drama Written Directly for the Screen Coming Home (Shared with Robert C. Jones)
1986 Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement
1970 Academy Award Won Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium Midnight Cowboy
1974 Nominated Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium Serpico (Shared with Norman Wexler)
1979 Won Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen Coming Home (Shared with Nancy Dowd and Robert C. Jones)
1970 BAFTA Award Won Best Screenplay Midnight Cowboy
1974 Edgar Allan Poe Awards Nominated Serpico (Shared with Norman Wexler)
1970 Golden Globe Award Nominated Best Screenplay Midnight Cowboy
1979 Best Screenplay - Motion Picture Coming Home (Shared with Robert C. Jones)


  1. "Waldo Salt". New York. New York Magazine Co. 4. 1971.
  2. "Waldo Salt Biography (1914-1987)". www.filmreference.com.
  3. "Waldo Salt - Biography - Movies & TV - NYTimes.com". www.nytimes.com. Retrieved 2015-09-26.
  4. Matthews, Tom Dewe (2006-10-07). "The outlaws" (free registration required). The Guardian. Retrieved 2006-10-11.
  5. http://festival.sundance.org/2009/film_events/films/waldo_salt_screenwriting_award
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