Unsung Auteurs: Irene Kamp

November 9, 2023
FilmInk salutes the work of creatives who have never truly received the credit that they deserve. In this installment: screenwriter Irene Kamp, who penned The Beguiled and Paris Blue.

With the writers’ strike hopefully at close-to-resolution point in the US, we’ll still be showing solidarity by focusing on screenwriters in the Unsung Auteurs column. For female screenwriters, gaining the credit they deserve can often be tough. Whether it’s because they’re often writing in genres (comedy, romance) that receive far less accolades, or because they don’t trumpet their abilities, women have long tended to be placed at the back of the queue when it comes to praise and attention. Another knock to female writers getting an appropriate amount of celebration is the fact that when they’re involved in a co-write, they are often viewed as the “minor player” in the collaboration. This is magnified when the collaboration is with a husband or romantic partner, with the wife stereotypically presented as the one who merely throws in a few ideas from the sidelines, while the man does most of the “important work.”

This was the fate which partially befell screenwriter Irene Kamp, a woman so unsung that we couldn’t even source a photograph of her! Much of Irene Kamp’s writing was done with her husband, Louis Kamp, but she also had a variety of other pursuits and interests, which have also contributed to her being largely under-celebrated. Born Irene Kittle in Brooklyn in 1910, the future screenwriter began her career in journalism and media at the age of just sixteen with stories for The Nassau Daily Review. She then worked as a receptionist at Conde Nast productions before working her way up through the organization to eventually become the editor of the popular magazines Glamour and Cue. Irene Kittle shifted out of editing when she married Louis Kamp, with the two collaborating on a variety of short stories for magazines.

Geraldine Page and Margaret Ladd in The Great Indoors.

Irene Kamp also wrote a stage play, The Great Indoors, which was the story of an anti-Semitic German immigrant caught up in the civil-rights upheavals in the South in the 1960’s, and had a brief Broadway run in 1966. Kamp made her big screen debut, however, some time beforehand, with 1961’s Paris Blues. Directed by the great Martin Ritt, this hip, energetic romantic drama stars Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier as two American ex-pat jazz musos in Paris whose heads are understandably turned by US tourists Joanne Woodward and Diahann Carroll. The dialogue really swings, and the film has an enjoyable terseness to it.

Kamp next worked on 1961’s Love In A Goldfish Bowl, a romantic love triangle tale and vehicle for Fabian, before working with her husband Louis Kamp on 1962’s The Lion (A Kenya-set adventure starring Willian Holden, Trevor Howard and Capucine) and the adaptation of 1965’s The Sandpiper, with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. For her two most interesting credits, Irene Kamp was credited as Grimes Grice, the amusing pseudonym she apparently used for collaborations she wasn’t happy with. Though she might not have liked how the films turned out, credit is certainly due to Irene Kamp for her work on Don Siegel’s brooding, sexually explosive 1971 Clint Eastwood-starring drama The Beguiled (which was adapted from Thomas Cullinan’s novel) and for the 1972 horror-thriller The Possession Of Joel Delaney, which was adapted from Ramona Stewart’s novel, and is a quietly shocking commentary on class and family fracture in America in the 1970s.

Elizabeth Hartman and Clint Eastwood in The Beguiled.

Kamp worked with her husband on her final two credits, the 1975 TV mini-series Lincoln, starring Hal Holbrook as the famed US President, and 1975’s The Old Curiosity Shop (also known as Mr. Quilp), an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ novel starring Anthony Newley and David Hemmings. After a battle with cancer, Irene Kamp passed away in 1985 from a heart attack at the age of 74. A near-lifetime scribe in a variety of mediums, there’s more than enough idiosyncrasy and personality in Irene Kamp’s work to decry her wholly unsung screenwriting career.

If you liked this story, check out our features on other unsung auteurs Albert Maltz, Nancy DowdBarry Michael CooperGladys HillWalon GreenEleanor BergsteinWilliam W. NortonHelen ChildressBill LancasterLucinda CoxonErnest TidymanShauna CrossTroy Kennedy MartinKelly MarcelAlan SharpLeslie DixonJeremy PodeswaFerd & Beverly SebastianAnthony PageJulie GavrasTed PostSarah JacobsonAnton CorbijnGillian RobespierreBrandon CronenbergLaszlo NemesAyelat MenahemiIvan TorsAmanda King & Fabio CavadiniCathy HenkelColin HigginsPaul McGuiganRose BoschDan GilroyTanya WexlerClio BarnardRobert AldrichMaya ForbesSteven KastrissiosTalya LavieMichael RoweRebecca CremonaStephen HopkinsTony BillSarah GavronMartin DavidsonFran Rubel Kuzui, Elliot SilversteinLiz GarbusVictor FlemingBarbara PeetersRobert BentonLynn SheltonTom GriesRanda HainesLeslie H. MartinsonNancy Kelly, Paul NewmanBrett HaleyLynne Ramsay, Vernon ZimmermanLisa CholodenkoRobert GreenwaldPhyllida LloydMilton KatselasKaryn KusamaSeijun SuzukiAlbert PyunCherie NowlanSteve BinderJack CardiffAnne Fletcher ,Bobcat GoldthwaitDonna DeitchFrank PiersonAnn TurnerJerry SchatzbergAntonia BirdJack SmightMarielle HellerJames GlickenhausEuzhan PalcyBill L. NortonLarysa KondrackiMel StuartNanette BursteinGeorge ArmitageMary LambertJames FoleyLewis John CarlinoDebra GranikTaylor SheridanLaurie CollyerJay RoachBarbara KoppleJohn D. HancockSara ColangeloMichael Lindsay-HoggJoyce ChopraMike NewellGina Prince-BythewoodJohn Lee HancockAllison AndersDaniel Petrie Sr.Katt SheaFrank PerryAmy Holden JonesStuart RosenbergPenelope SpheerisCharles B. PierceTamra DavisNorman TaurogJennifer LeePaul WendkosMarisa SilverJohn MackenzieIda LupinoJohn V. SotoMartha Coolidge, Peter HyamsTim Hunter, Stephanie RothmanBetty ThomasJohn FlynnLizzie BordenLionel JeffriesLexi AlexanderAlkinos TsilimidosStewart RaffillLamont JohnsonMaggie Greenwald and Tamara Jenkins.