Superb ... loads Hecht’s staggering contradictions into a compact but abounding two hundred and twenty pages ... expertly links Hollywood and New York, American Jewish conundrums and the intricacies of Zionist politics. Immersing herself in Hecht’s novels and tracts (no easy task), she writes with enormous flair about a marginal figure in literature but a major influence on twentieth-century popular culture.
What does it mean that Hecht resented his own genius at crafting scripts? This is one of the central questions that animates Adina Hoffman’s beautifully written Ben Hecht: Fighting Words, Moving Pictures, a concise but nuanced biographya concise but nuanced biography of a writer whose astonishing output and success as a commercial screenwriter never quite diminished his desire to write a 'great' novel. Hecht lived an exuberant, madcap, bad-boy life, which Hoffman details with a gimlet eye ... The great strength of Hoffman’s biography is that she never loses sight of Hecht’s work, evaluating the films and writings with keen and revealing judgment.
... sensitive and incisive ... A great virtue of Hoffman’s biography is to maintain a focus on the unity rather than the diversity of someone capable of such metamorphoses—to cut through the disparate bundle of credits and anecdotes ... To boil down such a profuse, not to say verbose, career into so compact a volume was a challenge, but [Hoffman] has achieved much more than elegant concision. Alert to the wiles and intricacies of someone who savored his own contradictions, she makes contact with a living personality, creating a portrait both sympathetic and clear-eyed of a restless character who with stubborn determination left pieces of himself scattered over the times and places he passed through.
Hoffman, a superb essayist and biographer, illuminates, in this precise and lively portrait, every contradictory element of Hecht’s rogue personality, protean artistry, and impact as a whirlwind activist calling for support of Nazi-besieged European Jews and the establishment of Israel. Each phase in Hecht’s adventures is electrifying ... Hoffman’s concentrated biography is smartly entertaining and revelatory.