Tuesday, March 1, 2016

R.I.P. Alice Arlen (1940-2016)

Alice Arlen
On March 29, 2016, screenwriter Alice Arlen died in New York, New York at the age of 75. She is best remembered for her work with director Nora Ephron, specifically on the Meryl Streep vehicle Silkwood, which earned Arlen an Oscar nomination. Her career spanned many decades and featured many films starring strong female protagonists. Her dramas were provocative and captured an empowering change in the societal climate. Over her career spanning 24 years, she wrote 6 screenplays that helped to shape and influence women in cinema going forward.

Arlen was born Alice Reeve on November 6, 1940 to a lawyer father and a journalist mother. She would later attend Radcliffe College, where she graduated in 1962. She would attend Colombia in 1979 for further studies. She would later marry journalist James Hodge, who worked at the Chicago Sun Times. They would divorce and later she would marry Michael J. Arlen, of whom convinced her to move to New York.

It was in 1983 that she met Ephron while attending Colombia. Together, they decided to work on the screenplay for Silkwood, directed by Mike Nichols. The resulting film earned 5 Oscars, including a Best Original Screenplay for Ephron and Arlen. They wouldn't win, but it started their careers off strongly. While Ephron would transition into a successful career writing and directing, Arlen would be more conservative with her projects, sometimes taking years between projects. She would work again with Ephron in 1989 on Cookie, directed by Susan Seidelman. Among her later credits includes writing the script for Helen Hunt's directorial debut Then She Found Me, her last script, in 2007.

Arlen had 7 children, 3 of which were biological. While her career wasn't all that public nor as successful as Ephron, she left behind an impressive body of work that reflects the power of female writers. With great characters and intriguing premises, Arlen helped to make cinema more accessible to those outside of the male dominated hierarchy. Even if she has been quiet for the most part, her work speaks volumes and leaves behind something enviable and impressive for future generations to behold. 

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