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

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.


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 (1922, later renamed Bard College) and Columbia Law School (1925).[5][6]


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) which were produced by Broadway.[7]

Koch began playwriting in the late 1920s before he started working on radio scripts.[8] In the 1930s, he worked as a writer for the CBS Mercury Theater of the Air. The work included the Orson Welles radio drama The War of the Worlds (1938), which allegedly caused nationwide panic among some listeners for its documentary-like portrayal of an invasion of spaceships from Mars.[9][10] Koch later wrote a play about the panic, Invasion from Mars,[11] which was later adapted into the 1975 TV movie, The Night That Panicked America, in which actor Joshua Bryant plays Koch.[12]

In the 1940s, Koch began writing for Hollywood studios. His first accepted works were screenplays for Michael Curtiz's The Sea Hawk, William Wyler's The Letter.[10] 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 1943.[13] He also wrote Shining Victory (1941)[14] and Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948),[14] his favorite screenplay.[15]

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.[16][17] After the war, Koch was dismissed after he was denounced as a Communist.[18] 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.[19]

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[15] with other blacklisted writers, where they wrote for five years for film and television (British television series The Adventures of Robin Hood among them) under the pseudonyms "Peter Howard"[8] and "Anne Rodney".[20] In 1956, they returned to the United States and settled in Woodstock, New York.[21] Koch sought help from high-profile lawyer Ed Williams in order to clear his name from Hollywood's blacklist. Koch was promptly removed from the blacklist,[22] and he resumed his name and continued to write plays and books and remained actively committed to progressive political and social justice causes. His last Hollywood screenplay was for The Fox in 1968.[14]


Koch died at age 93 in 1995 in Kingston, New York.[15]


Short stories


  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. ^ Danca, Vincent J. (1974). An Analysis of Casablanca with an Emphasis on Five Scenes. University of Wisconsin--Madison.
  6. ^ Communications, Museum of Broadcast (2004). The Museum of Broadcast Communications Encyclopedia of Radio. Fitzroy Dearborn. ISBN 978-1-57958-452-8.
  7. ^ Internet Broadway Database.
  8. ^ a b "Howard Koch; Oscar-Winning Co-Writer of 'Casablanca'". Los Angeles Times. 1995-08-18. Retrieved 2022-08-21.
  9. ^ Sterling, Christopher H. (2013-05-13). Biographical Encyclopedia of American Radio. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-136-99375-6.
  10. ^ a b Starr, Kevin (2003-09-11). Embattled Dreams: California in War and Peace, 1940-1950. OUP USA. ISBN 978-0-19-516897-6.
  11. ^ Riley, Kathleen (2005-04-27). Nigel Hawthorne on Stage. Univ of Hertfordshire Press. ISBN 978-1-902806-31-0.
  12. ^ Roberts, Jerry (2009-06-05). Encyclopedia of Television Film Directors. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-8108-6378-1.
  13. ^ Isenberg, Noah (2017-02-14). We'll Always Have Casablanca: The Legend and Afterlife of Hollywood's Most Beloved Film. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-24313-0.
  14. ^ a b c "AFI|Catalog". Retrieved 2022-08-21.
  15. ^ a b c Gussow, Mel (18 August 1995). "Howard Koch, a Screenwriter For Casablanca, Dies at 93". The New York Times. p. D17.
  16. ^ Frankel, Glenn (2017-02-21). High Noon: The Hollywood Blacklist and the Making of an American Classic. Bloomsbury Publishing USA. ISBN 978-1-62040-950-3.
  17. ^ Robinson, Harlow (2007). Russians in Hollywood, Hollywood's Russians: Biography of an Image. UPNE. ISBN 978-1-55553-686-2.
  18. ^ Dick, Bernard F. (2014-10-17). Hal Wallis: Producer to the Stars. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 978-0-8131-5951-5.
  19. ^ Birdwell, Michael E. (2000). Celluloid Soldiers: Warner Bros.'s Campaign Against Nazism. NYU Press. ISBN 978-0-8147-9871-3.
  20. ^ "Howard Koch". Bard College Archives. Archived from the original on 2010-05-28. Retrieved 2010-04-08.
  21. ^ U.S.: Selected Jewish Obituaries, 1948-2002 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, Inc., 2008.
  22. ^ Thomas, Evan (2012-12-04). The Man to See. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4391-2796-4.