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.
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.
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 Dowd, Barry Michael Cooper, Gladys Hill, Walon Green, Eleanor Bergstein, William W. Norton, Helen Childress, Bill Lancaster, Lucinda Coxon, Ernest Tidyman, Shauna Cross, Troy Kennedy Martin, Kelly Marcel, Alan Sharp, Leslie Dixon, Jeremy Podeswa, Ferd & Beverly Sebastian, Anthony Page, Julie Gavras, Ted Post, Sarah Jacobson, Anton Corbijn, Gillian Robespierre, Brandon Cronenberg, Laszlo Nemes, Ayelat Menahemi, Ivan Tors, Amanda King & Fabio Cavadini, Cathy Henkel, Colin Higgins, Paul McGuigan, Rose Bosch, Dan Gilroy, Tanya Wexler, Clio Barnard, Robert Aldrich, Maya Forbes, Steven Kastrissios, Talya Lavie, Michael Rowe, Rebecca Cremona, Stephen Hopkins, Tony Bill, Sarah Gavron, Martin Davidson, Fran Rubel Kuzui, Elliot Silverstein, Liz Garbus, Victor Fleming, Barbara Peeters, Robert Benton, Lynn Shelton, Tom Gries, Randa Haines, Leslie H. Martinson, Nancy Kelly, Paul Newman, Brett Haley, Lynne Ramsay, Vernon Zimmerman, Lisa Cholodenko, Robert Greenwald, Phyllida Lloyd, Milton Katselas, Karyn Kusama, Seijun Suzuki, Albert Pyun, Cherie Nowlan, Steve Binder, Jack Cardiff, Anne Fletcher ,Bobcat Goldthwait, Donna Deitch, Frank Pierson, Ann Turner, Jerry Schatzberg, Antonia Bird, Jack Smight, Marielle Heller, James Glickenhaus, Euzhan Palcy, Bill L. Norton, Larysa Kondracki, Mel Stuart, Nanette Burstein, George Armitage, Mary Lambert, James Foley, Lewis John Carlino, Debra Granik, Taylor Sheridan, Laurie Collyer, Jay Roach, Barbara Kopple, John D. Hancock, Sara Colangelo, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, Joyce Chopra, Mike Newell, Gina Prince-Bythewood, John Lee Hancock, Allison Anders, Daniel Petrie Sr., Katt Shea, Frank Perry, Amy Holden Jones, Stuart Rosenberg, Penelope Spheeris, Charles B. Pierce, Tamra Davis, Norman Taurog, Jennifer Lee, Paul Wendkos, Marisa Silver, John Mackenzie, Ida Lupino, John V. Soto, Martha Coolidge, Peter Hyams, Tim Hunter, Stephanie Rothman, Betty Thomas, John Flynn, Lizzie Borden, Lionel Jeffries, Lexi Alexander, Alkinos Tsilimidos, Stewart Raffill, Lamont Johnson, Maggie Greenwald and Tamara Jenkins.