Frank S Nugent

Screenwriter, Critic, Reporter
Frank S. Nugent began his career with The New York Times as a reporter in 1929, before succeeding Andre Senwald as the paper's motion picture editor and critic in 1936. His reviews often turned on a clever ... Read more »
Born: 05/27/1908 in New York City, New York, USA


Writer (10)

The Last Hurrah 1958 (Movie)


Gunman's Walk 1957 (Movie)


Rising of the Moon 1956 (Movie)


The Searchers 1956 (Movie)


Mister Roberts 1955 (Movie)


The Tall Men 1955 (Movie)


Trouble in the Glen 1953 (Movie)


The Quiet Man 1952 (Movie)


Three Godfathers 1948 (Movie)


Tulsa (Movie)



Frank S. Nugent began his career with The New York Times as a reporter in 1929, before succeeding Andre Senwald as the paper's motion picture editor and critic in 1936. His reviews often turned on a clever phrase, or a pun, which stung or delighted those it affected, but generally illuminated the point and made for entertaining reading. A string of barbs unfavorable to 20th Century-Fox caused that studio to cancel their advertising for six months in 1939, costing the Times $50,000. When Darryl F. Zanuck lured "the assassin" to Hollywood in 1940 to work for the studio, cynics on both coasts considered it a case of "if you can't fire him, hire him."

Nugent worked exclusively as a script doctor during his four years under contract to Zanuck and wrote articles on Hollywood for a variety of magazines, including Good Housekeeping, Collier's and The Saturday Evening Post, before writing his first screenplay for John Ford. Ford found Nugent much to his liking, and he ostensibly replaced writer Dudley Nichols as Ford's most frequent collaborator; the two teamed on a dozen pictures during their 15-year association. Though their first two movies together, "Fort Apache" (1948) and "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" (1949), were not well received at the time, recent criticism has proved less short-sighted, recognizing in these polished works (particularly "Fort Apache") the developing tensions of Ford's Western vision that would culminate in their masterpiece "The Searchers" (1956).

In "The Searchers", Ford and Nugent created a Western hero trapped forever in a world of his own making. He has made civilization possible, but, with the door closing on the wilderness, is forever estranged from the new world. It is this sustained reflection upon the major themes of the Western genre that raised "The Searchers" beyond Ford's other work to the status of tragedy. Regrettably, the two did not follow it with work of similar stature. Their subsequent movies, "The Last Hurrah" (1958), "They Rode Together" (1959) and "Donovan's Reef" (1961) are generally agreed to be of uneven quality as well as variable subject matter.

Nugent occasionally ventured out from under Ford's wing to work with such greats as Robert Wise ("Two Flags West" 1950), Otto Preminger ("Angel Face" 1953) and Raoul Walsh ("The Tall Men" 1955) but never stayed long outside his orbit. Forever linked with Ford, his reputation rests on their collaboration. He won a Writers Guild of America Award for Best-Written Comedy for the boisterous "The Quiet Man" (1952), which teamed John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara, and later shared the same award with Josh Logan for their adaptation of the stage success "Mister Roberts" (1955). President of the Writers Guild of America West from 1957 to 1958, he served a three-year stint (1956-59) as chairman of the building fund committee that oversaw the construction of the organization's headquarters in Beverly Hills.


Frank Nugent

of Irish heritage

Jean Nugent

second wife married in 1953 until his death

Rebecca Nugent


Tony Nugent

wife Jean's son, adopted by Nugent

Dorothy Rivers

married in 1939 divorced in 1952


School of Journalism, Columbia University

New York , New York 1929

Regis High School

New York , New York



Received last screen credit for Earl Bellamy's "Incident at Phantom Hill"


Final collaboration with Ford, "Donovan's Reef"


Wrote "This Rugged Land" for TV, an extended version of an episode from the series "Empire"; directed by Arthur Hiller


Teamed again with Ford on "They Rode Together"


Scripted "The Last Hurrah", directed by Ford


Served as president of Writers Guild of America West


Wrote screenplay for Ford's "The Searchers"


Worked with Ford on TV project, "Rookie of the Year" for "Screen Directors Playhouse"


Shared screen credit with Joshua Logan on "Mister Roberts"


Wrote script for Herbert Wilcox's "Trouble in the Glen"


Co-wrote Otto Preminger's "Angel Face"


Scripted "The Quiet Man"


Co-wrote screenplay for Ford's "Wagonmaster"


Continued collaboration with Ford on "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon"


Shared screen credit on Ford's "Three Godfathers"


Wrote sreenplay for John Ford's "Fort Apache", beginning long association with legendary director


Brought to Hollywood by Darryl F. Zanuck and served as "script doctor" at 20th Century-Fox; fixed other writers' scripts until turning screenwriter toward end of decade


Succeeded the late Andre Senwald as Times' motion picture editor and critic


Began writing film reviews for The New York Times


Joined The New York Times as a reporter

Contributed articles on filmmaking to magazines that included Good Housekeeping, Collier's, and The Saturday Evening Post

Bonus Trivia


"Zanuck told me he didn't want me to write, that he just thought the studio would save money if I criticized the pictures before they were made." --Nugent on his early days in Hollywood, quoted in THE NEW YORK TIMES obituary, December 31, 1965