Faulkner at MGM: 1932-33

Turn About: General Contours of the Project

The general contours of Faulkner’s experience during the Turn About project are well known.

Summarized briefly, Howard Hawks, the brother-in-law to MGM executive Irving Thalburg, read “Turnabout” in The Saturday Evening Post in early 1932. He quickly optioned it and assigned Faulkner to adapt it. Faulkner was enthusiastic and wrote the first draft of the screenplay in complete isolation in only five days. This first draft transposed the narrative of the source story more-or-less intact, and Thalburg sent it into production where it was rechristened Turn About.

According to Hawks, Thalburg liked Faulkner’s script so much that he demanded that Hawks not “muddy it up by changing it” (Kawin, Faulkner and Film 76). Soon, however, Thalburg, in an about face, notified Hawks that Joan Crawford, one of MGM’s biggest stars, was being assigned to the all-male war picture, and Faulkner was now to write a second draft, providing her a starring role.

Faulkner wrote the new draft in Oxford, Mississippi, where he had returned to look after his father’s funeral and to settle his affairs. Back in Hollywood and after discussions with Hawks, he wrote a revised third version that became the blueprint for Today We Live, the name of the film MGM released in March 1933.