Screenwriter Millard Kaufman dies at 92

Co-created Mr. Magoo, penned 'Bad Day at Black Rock'

Screenwriter Millard Kaufman, who co-created the cartoon character Mr. Magoo, was nominated for Academy Awards for his screenplays for "Take the High Ground!" and "Bad Day at Black Rock" and won a cult following as a first-time novelist at age 90, has died, a spokeswoman said. He was 92.

Kaufman died March 14 of heart failure, said Laura Howard, spokeswoman for McSweeney's Publishing, which published his novel "Bowl of Cherries" in 2007.

Kaufman's writing credits also include "Never So Few," "The Warlord," "The Klansman" and "Convicts 4" as well an episode of the TV series "Police Story" and the TV movie "Enola Gay."

In 1949, he wrote the screenplay for the short film "Ragtime Bear," which featured the first appearance of Mr. Magoo. He later co-wrote the 1950 Mr. Magoo short film "Punchy de Leon."

He was nominated twice for an Oscar: in 1953 for the story and screenplay of "Take the High Ground!" and two years later for the screenplay of "Bad Day at Black Rock."

"Black Rock" used the structure of a traditional Western to examine an unlikely subject -- American attitudes toward the Japanese in the wake of World War II.

In it, Spencer Tracy plays a one-armed private investigator who arrives in a defensive desert town to investigate the disappearance of a Japanese immigrant. Critics consider the film a cultural milestone for its treatment of Asian-American issues, though the film shows not a single Asian character.

Born in 1917 in Baltimore, Kaufman graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 1939. After college, he worked as a reporter for Newsday and New York's Daily News before joining the Marines in 1942 and later serving in World War II. After the war ended, Kaufman moved to Los Angeles with his wife, Lorraine, and began his screenwriting career.

Kaufman served two terms on the board of the WGA West.

After working as a screenwriter in Hollywood for more than 50 years, he published his first novel, the bawdy coming-of-age tale "Bowl of Cherries," in 2007.

His second novel, "Misadventure," is scheduled to be published by McSweeney's, an imprint known for its hip and original younger authors where Kaufman found an unlikely home, later this fall.

He is survived by his wife of 66 years, their three children and seven grandchildren.
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