Leigh (pronounced 'Lee") Brackett was that rarest of all writers.
A female science fiction writer, she wrote successfully in a time when genre fiction, and the film industry was dominated by men.
She became known as the Queen of Space Opera penning some of the most compelling novels and stories about space and our place in it with increasingly sophisticated themes.
In 1939 (at the age of 23) she sold her first scifi story called “Martian Quest” to one of the pre-eminent science fiction magazines of the time: Astounding. Her style and story was inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs and his “God Of Mars” novel.
Quote: "Suddenly, at one blazing stroke, the veil was rent and I had a glimpse of the cosmos. I cannot tell you what a tremendous effect that idea of Mars, another planet, a strange world, had on my imagination."
She continued in that vein until she wrote “No Good from a Corpse” (1944), as LEE Douglas, her maiden name, which was a crime novel in the Raymond Chandler mode.
This book resulted in her getting her first big screenwriting assignment.
Howard Hawks loved her novel and wanted “that guy” to help Faulkner write the screenplay to his short story “Killer In The Rain” which became the “The Big Sleep.” The film, directed by Hawkes starred Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. The movie is widely considered one of the finest examples of noir of that time, and it made Brackett a star in two art forms.
Brackett didn’t write a screenplay after that until the mid-1950s taking some time to be a wife to fellow scifi writer Edmond Hamilton.
Her road back to scriptwriting was through TV in an episode of the series “Suspicion.”
Then she wrote the screenplay for “Rio Bravo.” Directed by Howard Hawkes and starring John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson and Angie Dickinson. The film made Brackett once again an A-list writer in Hollywood which lead to a ton of filmwork including:
The Rockford Files (TV Series) (story by - 1 episode, 1975) (teleplay by - 1 episode, 1975)
- The Four Pound Brick (1975) ... (story by) / (teleplay by)
1975 Archer (TV Series) (writer - 1 episode)
- The Body Beautiful (1975) ... (writer)
1973 The Long Goodbye (screenplay)
1970 Rio Lobo (screenplay)
1967 El Dorado (screenplay)
1962 Hatari! (screenplay)
And various other television scripts.
According to Encyclopedia.Com, quote:
“During her career, Brackett frequently ventured from science fiction to radioplays, teleplays, screenplays, poetry, mystery novels, and a western “Follow the Free Wind,” which won the 1963 Silver Spur Award for the year's best western. She wrote seven mystery novels, including one under the pen name George Sanders.”
But it was in 1978 when her legacy was cemented forever. LEE Brackett wrote the screenplay for one of the best sequels in any film franchise: “The Empire Strikes Back” which is also considered the best of all the Star Wars movies. She unfortunately died from cancer just after delivering the first draft. The film won a Hugo Award in 1981 and created a wonderful legacy for her.
Lucas discovering Brackett according to John Baxter’s book Mythmaker because a friend handed Lucas one of her books and said: "Here is someone who did the Cantina scene better than you did."
Baxter’s has their first conversation as this:
Lucas: Have you ever written for the movies?
Brackett: Yes, I have. Rio Bravo, El Dorado, The Big Sleep, The Long Goodbye...
Lucas: Are you that LEE Brackett?
Brackett: Yes. Isn't that why you called me in?
Lucas: No, I called you in because you were a pulp science fiction writer!
Brackett fought her whole life to be a woman in a man’s occupation. Even her name, LEE, was always mistaken for being masculine. But in almost any photo of her you see, she is smiling. So this lifelong struggle never seemed to bother her. She just did what she was great at.
Leigh Brackett born in 1915, died in 1978, a year after the love of her life, her husband, died.
She will always be remembered for her contributions to novels and film but more importantly was the legacy she left to every female writer who’s ever struggled in a business that seems stacked against them.
She said in an interview, quote. "My advice to young women, who might be doubtful about taking up science fiction as a career, is simply this…. if you want to write science fiction, write it, and why the hell be doubtful?"
LINK TO Brackett's Star Wars script: https://starwarz.com/tbone/wp-content/uploads/Star-Wars-Sequel-Brackett.pdf