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R.I.P. Gloria Katz, American Graffiti and Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom screenwriter

Photo: Rodrigo Vaz (Getty Images)

Gloria Katz, longtime George Lucas collaborator and one of screenwriters behind American Graffiti and Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom, has died after a battle with ovarian cancer, reports The Hollywood Reporter. She was 76.

Described by many as one of the “secret weapons” of Hollywood, Katz began her career penning 1973's American Graffiti alongside Lucas and her husband, Willard Huyck. The trio were subsequently nominated for an Oscar. In the wake of the film’s success, Katz and Huyck wrote a number of films, including the enduring 1973 cult horror movie Messiah Of Evil and 1979's French Postcards.


It was only last year that the public also came to learn about Katz and Huyck’s contributions to Lucas’ Star Wars. In an interview with The Mary Sue, Katz revealed that the couple worked as script doctors on the director’s original draft. “George was writing the script and he had a lot of reservations about it, but he knew filming had to start,” she said. “He said, ‘Polish it—write anything you want and then I’ll go over it and see what I need.’ George didn’t want anyone to know we worked on the script, so we were in a cone of silence.”

Katz also revealed that the character of Princess Leia became stronger and fiercer under their pen. “When we talked to him about the character, we said Leia should be a more ‘Hawksian woman,’ with all the traits that that woman had: she can take command; she doesn’t take any shit, but at the same time she’s vulnerable and to write her as really focused, instead of just a beautiful woman that schlepped along to be saved,” she said.

They also elevated dialogue that desperately needed it. See the below tweet for an example:


She and Huyck again teamed up with Lucas for 1984's Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom, which they wrote in six weeks after a four-day story conference with Lucas and Steven Spielberg. “Discipline is the single most important thing in writing,” Katz told People at the time.

Two years later, they wrote and directed the Lucas-produced Howard The Duck, a misfire that more or less hobbled their screenwriting careers. Their only subsequent studio screenwriting credit was on 1994's Radioland Murders, which was also produced by Lucas.


In the years since, Katz served on the board of the WGA and as an advisor at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, which is slated to open next year. She was also the chair of the Photographic Arts Council Los Angeles, and saw her and Huyck’s collection of Japanese photographs acquired by the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian. In 2017, she and Huyck released a book, Views Of Japan.

According to Huyck, Katz died on the couple’s 49th wedding anniversary.


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Randall Colburn

Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.