Robert Pirosh Tries His Luck

It was 1934 and Robert Pirosh was done with copywriting.

Mr. Pirosh liked writing. But his heart just wasn’t in copywriting. It was in screenwriting.

“Dear Sir,” Mr. Pirosh began his cover letter to all the motion picture studio people he could get addresses for, “I like words.”

And Mr. Pirosh meant all kinds of words. “I like fat buttery words, such as ooze, turpitude, glutinous, toady,” he wrote. And “I like Oh-Heavens, my-gracious, land’s-sake words, such as tricksy, tucker, genteel, horrid.”

He made good money as a copywriter. Money for junior writers in Hollywood wouldn’t hold a candle to that.

But the truth, Mr. Pirosh wrote, was this: “I like the word screenwriter better than copywriter, so I decided to quit my job in a New York advertising agency and try my luck in Hollywood.”

He didn’t know anyone in the movies. Didn’t know anything about the movies. But he liked the movies. And he liked words.

So, to the motion picture studio folks, he asked: “May I have a few with you?”

Mr. Pirosh got an encouraging note from one studio. He packed his bags, headed west, and eventually landed a $35-a-week gig at MGM.

He went on to write for the Marx Brothers, “Hawaii Five-0,” “The Waltons,” “Bonanza.” His words were spoken by big stars, such as William Shatner, Mary Tyler Moore, Rock Hudson. He won an Oscar in 1949 for his Battleground screenplay.

And when Robert Pirosh died in 1989, half a century after he sent that cover letter, half a century after he left good money for $35-a-week, he would be described by many words. Among which was one that he especially liked: screenwriter.

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