Philip Yordan -- screenwriter

Philip Yordan -- screenwriter

Philip Yordan, an Oscar-winning writer, died on March 24 in San Diego, his family said. He was 88.

Although he was most active in movies, Mr. Yordan's breakthrough came on Broadway in the 1940s with his play "Anna Lucasta."

It was the first Broadway production to feature an all-black cast in a drama unrelated to racial issues. Similar to Eugene O'Neill's "Anna Christie," it told the story of a prostitute fighting her way back to respectability.

The play was first produced by the American Negro Theater in Harlem, and moved to Broadway in 1944.

Mr. Yordan made two film versions of "Anna Lucasta," one in 1949 with an all-white cast starring Paulette Goddard, and another in 1958 with black performers, starring Eartha Kitt and Sammy Davis Jr.

Mr. Yordan, who was known to overextend himself with conflicting writing commitments, also became known as the name of record for blacklisted writers during the "red scare" of the 1950s. As a result, he often received screen credit for the work or contributions of others. Some writers were grateful for the work they received under Mr. Yordan's name, but the small extent of his efforts as a front man led some writers to feel that the credit he got was undeserved.

Among the screenplays he fronted was "Johnny Guitar," the 1954 western starring Joan Crawford and directed by Nicholas Ray. Many film encyclopedias now list Ben Maddow as screenwriter for the film, which is widely seen as an allegory of the Hollywood witch hunts.

Mr. Yordan, many of whose 61 films tell the story of lone heroes or villains acting in violent, lawless worlds, won an Oscar for his story "Broken Lance," a 1954 film starring Spencer Tracy as a Lear-like cattle baron losing control of his empire.

Mr. Yordan received Oscar nominations for two other films: "Dillinger" (1945), starring Lawrence Tierney, and "Detective Story" (1951), starring Kirk Douglas and William Bendix.

In his book "Backstory 2: Interviews With Screenwriters of the 1940s and 1950s" (University of California Press, 1991), Pat McGilligan wrote that Mr. Yordan's greatest talent was as an adapter of material, a script doctor who could quickly add the "Yordan touch" to a film by adding dramatic elements to the story and a realistic, rough edge to the dialogue.

During the 1950s, Mr. Yordan was involved in movies featuring the era's biggest stars, including Gary Cooper in "Blowing Wild" (1953), James Stewart in "Man From Laramie" (1955), and Humphrey Bogart in his last film, "The Harder They Fall" (1956).

Mr. Yordan left Hollywood in the early 1960s to join the producer Samuel Bronston in Spain, helping him create the big-budget epics "El Cid" (1961) and "55 Days at Peking" (1962), both starring Charlton Heston, and "Circus World" (1964), starring John Wayne and Rita Hayworth.

Later in the decade, he turned to disaster films, including "Krakatoa, East of Java" (1969), about an eruption of a volcano that, as critics and geographers immediately pointed out, is actually to Java's west.

Mr. Yordan is survived by his wife, Faith, of San Diego; and children Daniel of Los Angeles, Philip Jr. of San Diego, Juliet of Carlsbad (San Diego County), Philice of Paris and Byron of San Diego; and two grandchildren.