“I’m not an executive, just a writer.”

Kids get into fights about their dads. “My dad could beat up your dad!” “My dad’s smarter than your dad!” “Oh yeah, well, MY dad says…”

Kids are dumb. And wrong. Because the combined dadness of all their dads could not out-dad my dad’s very daddish dadness.

My dad was flying planes before most kids learn how to drive a car. He plays the guitar and the drums. He sings. He draws and paints. He can ride horses. He’s photographed presidents, senators, royalty, rock stars, actors. His articles have appeared in nearly every major U.S. publication worth its salt. He wrote a biology textbook. He’s worked in government as a civilian and as a presidential political appointee. He’s dined at the White House. For several years, he co-owned his own speechwriting firm, run in tandem with his daily job as an executive speechwriter to three successive secretaries of Veterans Affairs. He’s “retired,” but he still narrates books from his at-home podcasting studio, records the Washington Post for the blind, occasionally writes for The Huffington Post, and takes beautiful photos of birds, barns, bees, blossoms. He recently traveled to London to photograph the Invictus Games. He cooks. He knows the names of the stars. He reads a book a day, in any genre—his favorites, I think, are history and science. He is relentless.

He never even finished college. He just busted ass.

He makes me tired.

In the nonexistent but inevitable book I will someday write, no-really-I-swear, there is a chapter or two or five about my dad. For now, let it suffice to say that he is extraordinary, and I am proud of every photo, every column, every sketch, every dumb comic about moose, every piece of poetry he has ever composed. My dad, more than any other individual in my life, taught me to be curious and passionate and pliant and eager and fair.

2001, military school. In which we have a proud-off.

#FlashbackFriday to 2001, military school. In which we have a proud-off.

And also, to avoid adverbs. Sentence fragments, not as much.

Occasionally, on Twitter—which I joined because Dad joined and I didn’t want to be less cool than he is—and elsewhere, I’ve mentioned my dad’s grandfather, a man named Charles Brackett. I’m actually named for him; my full name is Charlotte Elizabeth Brackett Moore. (His youngest daughter, my grandmother, was named Elizabeth Fletcher Brackett. So my sister and I are both named for her, too.)

Mom. Dad. I know you meant well but THIS DOESN’T FIT ON FORMS.

You probably know Charlie’s work even if you don’t know his name—he won four Oscars, and one of them was for co-writing a small, cult indie film no one’s ever heard of called Sunset Blvd.

Two others were for writing The Lost Weekend and the 1953 film Titanic; the last was an Honorary Award in 1959 for outstanding service to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences*, for whom he served as president from 1949-1955.

Charlie’s hetero lifemate and frenemy was Billy Wilder, with whom he wrote and/or produced most of his films. As the more boisterous, mercurial, and provocative of the pair, Billy got the lion’s share of credit for their work. Everyone knows who Billy Wilder is. The mark of a real film nerd is someone who knows he was only the dynamic half of the Brackettandwilder duo.

For many reasons, Dad didn’t get to spend a lot of time with his grandfather, but he loved and admired him. Even from a distance, I think Charlie inspired and shaped him as profoundly as Dad shaped me.

Over the last few years, Dad’s been working with an archivist/editor/movie nerd named Anthony Slide, in an effort to collect, decipher, and contextualize Charles Brackett’s extensive and meticulous diaries. The fruit of their labor is called “It’s the Pictures That Got Small”: Charles Brackett on Billy Wilder and Hollywood’s Golden Age. Tony is the official editor, but Dad contributed a wonderful and thoughtful forward.

Billy Wilder’s face = accurate representation of the writing process.

(My mother, apparently, also had a hand in deciphering Charlie’s often unintelligible scrawl. I don’t know how she achieved this because her vision is crap and she always uses $10 drugstore glasses, Mom seriously suck it up and see an ophthalmologist I am not kidding I know you are reading this somehow even though your eyes are godawful.)

When the ‘rents were visiting Raleigh for Thanksgiving, I asked Dad how he was feeling about the upcoming book release, and how well he thought it would do. “Oh, I don’t know,” he said, thumbing absently through the galley paperback he’d brought me. “I’ll feel pretty good if we sell 500 copies.”

Unlike his eldest daughter, my father is a nuanced writer with a knack for understatement.

You can’t buy the book online right now, because even though its official release isn’t until December 16, Amazon already sold out. It’s #4 in their Film Documentaries category. They’ve re-ordered from Columbia University Press three times already.


If you have a film nerd in your life, please try to get your hands on a copy for Christmas. If you ARE a film nerd, please ask for one. I haven’t read much of it yet, but I can tell you it’s about so much more than the mind of a man who, in whatever small way, helped shape our cultural lexicon—it’s a first-hand account of the world that shaped him, even when it didn’t always understand him (or vice-versa).

Dad and Tony will be plugging the book on Alicia Mayer’s podcast tomorrow. Give it a listen while you’re doing the dishes or whatever. I’m sure it’ll be great.

And check back in a year or two, when Dad’s official biography of his grandfather hits shelves.

If you forget, don’t worry—I’ll remind you.

I love you, Dad. Congratulations. You done good. <3


*I originally wrote, incorrectly, that Charlie received a “Lifetime Achievement Award,” which isn’t really a thing, by the MPAA, when it was in fact AMPAS. Apparently there are approximately 348 organizations using some permutation of the words “Motion,” “Picture,” “Arts,” and/or “America.” I was gently corrected by the infallible** Howard Prouty, family friend, Academy archivist, and invaluable resource. Thanks, Howard.

**Here I originally said “ineffable,” which is also true, but not AS true. Clearly, I am neither.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: