Allen Rivkin; Co-Founder of Writers Guild


Allen Rivkin, a one-time electrician who became a screenwriter and then helped found the Writers Guild of America, has died at age 86, the guild announced Tuesday.

Rivkin died Saturday of kidney failure at his West Hollywood home, said a Writers Guild of America spokeswoman.

The veteran writer and unionist had been ill for more than a year.

Rivkin wrote more than 70 screenplays, including “Dancing Lady” (Fred Astaire’s first film, which starred Joan Crawford), “The Picture Snatcher” with James Cagney, “Till the End of Time,” “The Farmer’s Daughter” (an Academy Award for Loretta Young in 1947), “Grounds for Marriage” and “Prisoners of War,” starring Ronald Reagan.


In 1933, Rivkin and nine other writers were elected to the first board of directors of the newly formed Screen Writers Guild, the precursor to today’s Writers Guild of America, with branches on both coasts.

He helped the fledgling guild overcome the challenge by the studio-backed Screen Playwrights Inc., a fight that ended with the screen writers victorious in 1938.

Over the years, he served on 35 guild committees, founded and edited its newsletter and was the director of public relations from 1963 to 1986. He played a key role during the congressional hearings into Communist infiltration of the film industry, organizing a slate of centrist and conservative candidates for guild seats.

During World War II, Rivkin wrote and produced documentaries for the highly prized “Why We Fight” series of War Department films.

Born in Hayward, Wis., Rivkin studied journalism at the University of Minnesota and worked as a reporter before moving to Hollywood in 1923.

He did movie studio electrical work before becoming a publicist for RKO.

His writing career took off in the 1930s when he collaborated with Ben Markson on the stage play “Is My Face Red,” which became a 1932 movie.


His credits also include nine television scripts.

A memorial service will be held March 2 at 11:30 p.m. at the Writers Guild Theater, 135 S. Doheny Drive, Beverly Hills.

He is survived by his wife and writing partner, Laura Kerr, a daughter, three grandchildren, a sister-in-law and two nephews.