Told that women could only write movies about dating and relationships, Fay Kanin defied conventional wisdom to write award-winning dramas about subjects ranging from prostitution to deaths in Vietnam. Kanin began working in 1937 as a script reader for RKO Studios, where she met her future husband and collaborator, Michael Kanin. The pair married in 1940 and spent their honeymoon writing a screenplay, later collaborating on films such as 1957’s Teacher’s Pet, starring Doris Day as a journalism professor. Despite Fay Kanin producing a WWII radio series urging women to contribute to the war effort, she and her husband were blacklisted in the McCarthy era. The couple turned to Broadway, adapting Akira Kurosawa’s Rashoman into a theater mainstay. Feeling stresses in their partnership, they began writing separately to save their marriage, but Fay was told women’s stories weren’t lucrative enough for Hollywood. Undaunted, she began writing and coproducing Emmy and Peabody Award-winning TV movies, including Hustling in 1975, for which she interviewed real prostitutes, and Friendly Fire in 1979, based on her conversations with the mother of a slain soldier. Kanin became the second female president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1980 and served an unprecedented four years.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Fay Kanin." (Viewed on February 25, 2020) <https://jwa.org/people/kanin-fay>.