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New York Times (25/Nov/2008) - John Michael Hayes, Who Adapted ‘Rear Window,’ Is Dead at 89

(c) New York Times (25/Nov/2008)

John Michael Hayes, Who Adapted 'Rear Window' Is Dead at 89

John Michael Hayes, a screenwriter who wrote some of Alfred Hitchcock’s best-known films before breaking with the director in a fight over screen credit, died on Wednesday in Hanover, N.H. He was 89 and lived in Hanover.

His daughter Rochelle Hayes Skala confirmed the death.

Mr. Hayes adapted four films for Hitchcock: “Rear Window” (1954), from a story by Cornell Woolrich; “To Catch a Thief” (1955), from a novel by David Dodge; “The Trouble With Harry” (1955), from a novel by Jack Trevor Story; and the 1956 remake of “The Man Who Knew Too Much.”

“Rear Window” starred James Stewart as a photographer who thinks his neighbor is a killer. Mr. Hayes was credited with much of the film’s tart dialogue and with creating the character of Mr. Stewart’s girlfriend, played by Grace Kelly. (Kelly’s character, a fashion model, was said to have been inspired by Mr. Hayes’s wife, Mildred, also a model.)

Mr. Hayes received an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America in 1955 for “Rear Window.”

Besides his work for Hitchcock, he was known for writing the screenplay for “Peyton Place” (1957) — no enviable task given the challenges of turning Grace Metalious’s novel of small-town scandals into Hollywood fare. His screenplays for “Peyton Place” and “Rear Window” were nominated for Academy Awards.

John Michael Hayes Jr. was born on May 11, 1919, in Worcester, Mass. As a youth, he contributed Boy Scout news to The Worcester Telegram at 10 cents an inch. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 1941, before serving in the Army in World War II.

Mr. Hayes began his career as a radio writer. His early film credits include “Thunder Bay” (1953), directed by Anthony Mann and starring Mr. Stewart.

Though not quite as celebrated as “Rear Window,” Mr. Hayes’s other films with Hitchcock — “To Catch a Thief,” starring Cary Grant as a debonair cat burglar, and “The Trouble With Harry,” a black comedy about a constantly reappearing body — were generally well received. So was “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” though it irreparably frayed the partnership between Mr. Hayes and Hitchcock.

According to news accounts, Hitchcock hired another writer, Angus MacPhail, to help with the screenplay. He insisted that Mr. MacPhail receive joint credit; Mr. Hayes demurred. After arbitration, the Writers Guild awarded sole credit to Mr. Hayes, who never worked with Hitchcock again.

Mr. Hayes’s later screenplays include adaptations of “Butterfield 8” (1960), in which Elizabeth Taylor won an Oscar for best actress and “The Children’s Hour” (1961). He also wrote television movies and in the 1980s and ’90s taught film at Dartmouth College.

Besides his daughter Ms. Skala, of Los Angeles, Mr. Hayes is survived by another daughter, Meredyth Hayes Badreau of Houston; two sons, Garrett Michael, of Atlanta, and Corey, of Jacksonville, Fla.; and four grandchildren. His wife, the former Mildred Hicks, known as Mel, died in 1989.

In interviews over the years, Mr. Hayes was forthright about what it was like to write for Mr. Hitchcock. “I enjoyed working with him professionally, but off the screen he wasn’t so likable,” he told The Worcester Telegram & Gazette in 1999. “He was egotistical to the point of madness.”