Gloria Katz, the Academy Award-nominated screenwriter who partnered with her screenwriter/director husband Willard Hyuck on a number of projects including scripting George Lucas’s American Graffiti and Steve Spielberg’s Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom died Sunday after a long battle with ovarian cancer. She was 76.
Katz and her husband were part of the first generation of filmmakers to come out of film school. They would often collaborate with their contemporaries like George Lucas or Steven Spielberg, sometimes in an unofficial and uncredited capacity.
The first onscreen credit that Katz and Hyuck would receive would be for jointly writing and directing the 1973 horror film Messiah Of Evil. Although Katz was dismissive of the film in later years, some modern critics have argued that the surreal nature of the film marks it as overlooked gem.
Around the same time, George Lucas approached Hyuck for help in writing a film about cruising titled American Graffiti. Their work would win them an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
Katz and Hyuck next worked with Lucas when the director asked the couple to take a look at the script for his next project, a science-fiction film he was calling Star Wars. In a 2017 interview, Katz recalled that Lucas had “reservations” about the screenplay as he had written it.
He said “Polish it – write anything you want and then I’ll go over it and see what I need.” George didn’t want anyone to know we worked on the script, so we were in a cone of silence.
Katz also claimed that she and her husband helped to reshape the character of Princess Leia from a damsel in distress to a more take charge woman in the mold of female leads such as Barbara Stanwyck in the films of 1940s director Howard Hawks. They also worked to inject humor into the film. She estimated that approximately 30 percent of the film’s dialogue was written by her and her husband.
The couple worked with Lucas a third time, when as a producer he hired them to script the first sequel to the blockbuster Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom, from his story for Steven Spielberg to direct.
As a screenwriting duo, Katz and Hyuck wrote the comedy Lucky Lady (1975) for director Stanley Donan and Radioland Murders (1994) for director Mel Smith. They also scripted French Postcards (1979), Best Defense (1984) and Howard The Duck (1986), all of which Hyuck directed.