Imagine all the magical feeling, insight, intuition and imagination that surely flowed through the nimble mind of screenwriter Gloria Katz, who passed four days ago from ovarian cancer. There’s always so much more to a person’s life than their so-called career highlights, obviously, but this, fairly or unfairly, is what obituaries always come down to.
And the hard fact is that Katz and her creative collaborator husband Willard Huyck are best known for their fruitful association with George Lucas and more precisely two major hits (one uncredited) during the early to mid ’70s, and for one huge stinker that happened in the mid ’80s.
Huyck and Katz’s greatest credited success was American Graffiti (’73), Lucas’s semi-autobiographical, night-on-the-town adventure film set in 1962 Modesto, California. Graffiti‘s success led to a long association between the couple and Lucas, which peaked (in a financial sense at least) when Katz and Huyck worked as uncredited script doctors on Star Wars (’77). They also co-wrote Steven Spielberg‘s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (’84). They also teamed on the duddish Best Defense (co-writing screenplay, Huyck directing, Katz producing).
And then disaster struck.
Howard the Duck (’86), shadow-produced by Lucas, directed by Huyck, produced by Katz and based on their co-written script, not only failed commercially but became known as one of the biggest stink-bombs in Hollywood history. Huyck and Katz’s reps never really recovered. Katz wrote a 1989 TV film, Mothers, Daughters and Lovers, and then she and her husband co-wrote one more feature film, the Lucas-produced Radioland Murders (’94). And that was it. Smothered by tainted duck feathers. But at least they had that glorious ’70s streak to look back upon.