Wendell Mayes

Wendell Curran Mayes (July 21, 1919 March 28, 1992) was a Hollywood screenwriter.

Wendell Mayes
Mayes in 1955
BornJuly 21, 1919
DiedMarch 28, 1992 (aged 72)
Years active1955-1992
Spouse(s)Phyllis Manning (m 1949-1992; his death)

Early life

Wendell was born in Hayti, Missouri. His father, Von Mayes, was a lawyer, and his mother, Irene (née Haynes), was a teacher. Wendell attended primary school in Caruthersville, Missouri; Battle Ground Academy in Franklin, Tennessee;[1] and Central College in Fayette, Missouri.[2] He had one year of law school at Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee. He moved to Washington DC to work as a filing clerk in the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, then to New York, where he worked in the theater. Subsequently he was an exterminator and gold prospector in Arizona, a truck driver in Texas. During World War II he worked as a welder in a Baltimore shipyard, and joined the Navy as a petty officer shipbuilder. In 1945 he was discharged from the Navy and moved back to New York.[3]


Mayes began as an actor, then turned to writing.[4] An episode No Riders that he wrote for "Pond's Theater" received a good review in a Los Angeles newspaper and Billy Wilder hired him to work on the script to the film The Spirit of St. Louis. [5]

For Anatomy of a Murder, Mayes received a New York Film Critics Circle Award for best screenplay in 1959 and an Oscar nomination in 1960. It is claimed to be one of the best trial movies of all time. His other screenwriting credits included:

Later years

Mayes died of cancer in 1992 in Santa Monica, California.[6] His last script was Criminal Behavior that starred Farrah Fawcett.[7][8]


  1. The Democrat-Argus. Caruthersville, Missouri. Friday, March 25, 1932 - Page 4
  2. The Democrat-Argus. Caruthersville, Missouri. Tuesday, September 13, 1932 - Page 5
  3. From Bootheel to Hollywood via TV. Wendell Mayes, welder-turned-TV writer, now working on Spirit of St Louis film script. St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) · Fri, Jun 17, 1955 · Page 45
  4. John Crosby. Silence booms as video trend. Oakland Tribune. 28 Jan 1957
  5. Wendell Mayes: The Jobs Poured over Me. Interview by Rui Nogueira. Backstory 3. UC Press E-Books Collection, 1982-2004
  6. Author of Anatomy of a Murder screenplay. Chicago Tribune 5 April 1992
  7. Tampa Bay Times 3 April 1992
  8. Wendell Mayes, 72, Film and TV Writer, New York Times 2 April 1992
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