Along with her husband, Michael Kanin – the brother of Garson Kanin, who also wrote films with his wife, Ruth Gordon– she wrote the screenplay for the 1958 Clark Gable-Doris Day film “Teacher’s Pet,” for which she and her husband received an Oscar nomination.
It was while the Kanins were on holiday in Europe that they learned they had been blacklisted by HUAC.
“What they had against us was that I had taken classes at the Actors Lab in Hollywood where some of the teachers were from the Group Theater and therefore suspect, and we had been members of the Hollywood Writers Mobilization, an organization in support of World War II to which almost all of Hollywood’s writers belonged,” she said. “It was ridiculous, but it was very real, and there was nothing we could do about it. We took a larger mortgage on the house and started writing a play, but we didn’t work in films for almost two years.”
They were unable to find work again until director Charles Vidor insisted that MGM hire the couple for the film “Rhapsody” in 1953.
Kanin won her first Emmy in 1974 for the TV movie “Tell Me Where It Hurts,” starring Maureen Stapleton as a housewife who realizes there is more to life than cooking and cleaning for a husband. A year later she was nominated for an Emmy and won a Writers Guild Award for the telefilm “Hustling,”an unflinching look at prostitution in Manhattan. It set a Saturday night ratings record for ABC, drawing some 50 million viewers.
“I was hooked on the chance to deal with a subject usually presented to the public in a romantic haze of myth,”Kanin said. She did six months of research, which included waiting with prostitutes in police station bullpens.
In 1979 Kanin wrote and co-produced the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning film “Friendly Fire.” Based on a book by C. D. B. Bryan that originally appeared as a series of articles in The New Yorker, it told the story of a conservative Iowa farm couple, Gene and Peg Mullen (played by Ned Beatty and Carol Burnett) who becomes activists against the Vietnam War after their son is killed by fire from his own troops.
Kanin was elected president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences in 1979, becoming only the second woman to hold that position, the first being Bette Davis, who resigned after only serving two months in 1941. She served until 1983.
Kanin’s husband died in 1993. Survivors include her son Josh, two granddaughters, two step-grandsons, and a great-grandson.