Fay Kanin (1917-2013) has written for stage, screen, and television—winning two Emmys, the Writers’ Guild of America Edmund H. North Award, and the Humanitas Prize Keiser Award during her seven decade career. Kanin was also President of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences from 1979 to 1983, the second woman to hold that post.
Kanin began her career as a story editor and script reader for RKO in the 1930’s, networking with executives and learning everything about the business—from lighting to producing—in her spare time. She even acted in the contract players’ “studio theatre”—where she met her husband Michael Kanin, then a newly hired screenwriter (and the older brother of playwright Garson Kanin). The two spent their honeymoon writing a screenplay, Sunday Punch, based on a New Yorker story about a boarding house for boxers. While the couple built a successful career as a writing team—their screenplay for Teacher’s Pet (1958) was nominated for an Academy Award—both made sure to carve independent careers for themselves as well. “When it came down to the question of which would survive, the marriage or the writing partnership, it was a pretty easy decision,” Kanin said, choosing her marriage—while writing or co-writing nine feature films and five Broadway plays and musicals.
In the 1970s, she began to write for television—bringing her trademark strong women characters and thought-provoking subjects to the small screen. Kanin won Emmys for Tell Me Where It Hurts (1972) about a group of housewives who form their own discussion group and Friendly Fire (1979), a docudrama about parents who become anti-war activists after their son dies in “friendly fire” in Vietnam.