Biography by Hal Erickson
Identical twin screenwriters Julius J. and Philip G. Epstein were the sons of a prosperous New York livery stable owner. Both Epsteins attended Penn State, then went off to seek their separate fortunes as journalists. Julius was employed as a press agent when, in 1933, he headed to Hollywood to help out a couple of old college friends who'd sold a story to Warner Bros. but were having trouble finishing the script. He continued to contribute anonymously to other screenwriter's efforts, finally receiving a credit for 1935's Broadway Gondolier.
Around that same time, Julius' brother, Philip, arrived in Hollywood to work at RKO; in 1938, the brothers formed a writing team that would flourish until Philip's sudden death in 1952. Before long, it became common Hollywood practice for producers, directors, and writers to cry out, "Get me the Epsteins!" whenever a script became mired down. Among the films that the Epsteins worked on (credited and uncredited) were The Strawberry Blonde (1941), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), The Male Animal (1942), My Foolish Heart (1948), and Forever Female (1952). Their prolific output is all the more remarkable in that they never typed a script, choosing instead to write in longhand. To hear the brothers tell it, they were of equal talent, though an argument can be made that Julius was the better raconteur and Philip was more skilled at bypassing censorship (it was Philip who saved the ending of Arsenic and Old Lace (1942) by purifying the line "I'm a bastard!" into "I'm the son of a sea cook!"), The Epsteins' best-known credit was the award-winning Casablanca. Outside of his work with Philip, Julius wrote or co-wrote four plays (including the popular Chicken Every Sunday), and wrote the scripts for The Tender Trap (1956), Kiss Them for Me (1957), Return From the Ashes (1965), Any Wednesday (1967), and Pete 'N' Tillie (1973), also functioning as producer on several of these films. Philip G. Epstein's credits without his brother include The Bride Walks Out (1936) and The Mad Miss Manton (1938). In 1983, the 74-year-old Julius J. Epstein won the fourth of his Oscar nominations for Reuben, Reuben.
On the eve of 2001 the master of sharp wit and sardonic dialogue was silenced forever. With the death of Julius Epstein on December 30, 2000, Hollywood lost the final remaining contributor to one of films most beloved treasures, Casablanca.