Leigh Douglass Brackett (December 7, 1915 – March 18, 1978) was an American author, particularly of science fiction. She was also a screenwriter, known for her work on famous films such as The Big Sleep (1945), Rio Bravo (1959), The Long Goodbye (1973) and The Empire Strikes Back (1980).
Leigh Brackett was born and grew up in Los Angeles, California. On December 31, 1946, at age 31, she married Edmond Hamilton in San Gabriel, California, and moved with him to Kinsman, Ohio. She died of cancer in 1978 in Lancaster, California.
Brackett was first published in her mid-twenties. Her first published science fiction story was “Martian Quest”, which appeared in the February 1940 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. Her earliest years as a writer (1940-1942) were her most productive in numbers of stories written. Occasional stories have social themes, such as “The Citadel of Lost Ships” (1943), which considers the effects on the native cultures of alien worlds of Earth's expanding trade empire.
Brackett's first novel, No Good from a Corpse, published in 1944, was a hard-boiled mystery novel in the tradition of Raymond Chandler. This led to her first major screenwriting assignment. At the same time, though, Brackett's science fiction stories were becoming more ambitious. Shadow Over Mars (1944) was her first novel-length science fiction story, and though still somewhat rough-edged, marked the beginning of a new style, strongly influenced by the characterization of the 1940s detective story and film noir.
In 1946, the same year that Brackett married science fiction author Edmond Hamilton, Planet Stories published the novella “Lorelei of the Red Mist”. Brackett only finished the first half before turning it over to Planet Stories' other acclaimed author, Ray Bradbury, so that she could leave to work on The Big Sleep. “Lorelei”'s main character is an out-and-out criminal, a thief called Hugh Starke.
Brackett returned from her break from science-fiction writing, caused by her cinematic endeavors, in 1948. From then on to 1951, she produced a series of science fiction adventure stories that were longer than her previous work. To this period belong such classic representations of her planetary settings as “The Moon that Vanished” and the novel-length Sea-Kings of Mars (1949), later published as The Sword of Rhiannon, a vivid description of Mars before its oceans evaporated.
With “Queen of the Martian Catacombs” (1949), Brackett created a character that she later returned to, Eric John Stark. Stark, an orphan from Earth, is raised by the semi-sentient aboriginals of Mercury, who are later killed by Earthmen. He is saved from the same fate by a Terran official, who adopts Stark and becomes his mentor. When threatened, however, Stark frequently reverts to the primitive N'Chaka, the “man without a tribe” that he was on Mercury. From 1949 to 1951, Stark (whose name echoes that of the hero in “Lorelei”) appeared in three tales, all published in Planet Stories; the aforementioned “Queen”, “Enchantress of Venus”, and finally “Black Amazon of Mars”. With this last story, Brackett's period of writing high adventure ended.
Brackett's stories thereafter adopted a more elegiac tone. They no longer celebrated the conflicts of frontier worlds, but lamented the passing away of civilizations. The stories now concentrated more upon mood than on plot. The reflective, retrospective nature of these stories is indicated in the titles: “The Last Days of Shandakor”; “Shannach — the Last”; “Last Call from Sector 9G”.
This last story was published in the very last issue (Summer 1955) of Planet Stories, always Brackett's most reliable market for science fiction. With the disappearance of Planet Stories and, later in 1955, of Startling Stories and Thrilling Wonder Stories, the market for Brackett's brand of story dried up, and the first phase of her career as a science fiction author ended. A few other stories trickled out over the next decade, and old stories were revised and published as novels. A new production of this period was one of Brackett's most critically acclaimed science fiction novels, The Long Tomorrow (1955). This novel describes an agrarian, deeply technophobic society that develops after a nuclear war.
But most of Brackett's writing after 1955 was for the more lucrative film and television markets. In 1963 and 1964, she briefly returned to her old Martian milieu with a pair of stories; “The Road to Sinharat” can be regarded as an affectionate farewell to the world of “Queen of the Martian Catacombs”, while the other – with the intentionally ridiculous title of “Purple Priestess of the Mad Moon” – borders on parody.
After another hiatus of nearly a decade, Brackett returned to science fiction in the seventies with the publication of The Ginger Star (1974), The Hounds of Skaith (1974), and The Reavers of Skaith (1976), collected as The Book of Skaith in 1976. This trilogy brought Eric John Stark back for adventures upon the extrasolar planet of Skaith (rather than his old haunts of Mars and Venus).
Most of Brackett's science fiction can be characterized as space opera or planetary romance. Almost all of her planetary romances take place within a common invented universe, the Leigh Brackett Solar System, which contains richly detailed fictional versions of the consensus Mars and Venus of science fiction in the 1930s–1950s. Mars thus appears as a marginally habitable desert world, populated by ancient, decadent, and mostly humanoid races; Venus as a primitive, wet jungle planet, occupied by vigorous, primitive tribes and reptilian monsters. Brackett's Skaith combines elements of Brackett's other worlds with fantasy elements.
Though the influence of Edgar Rice Burroughs is apparent in Brackett's Mars stories, the differences between their versions of Mars are great. Brackett's Mars is set firmly in a world of interplanetary commerce and competition, and one of the most prominent themes of Brackett's stories is the clash of planetary civilizations; the stories both illustrate and criticize the effects of colonialism on civilizations which are either older or younger than those of the colonizers, and thus they have relevance to this day. Burroughs' heroes set out to remake entire worlds according to their own codes; Brackett's heroes (often anti-heroes) are at the mercy of trends and movements far bigger than they are.  Screenwriter
Shortly after Brackett broke into science fiction writing, she also wrote her first screenplays. Hollywood director Howard Hawks was so impressed by her novel No Good from a Corpse that he had his secretary call in “this guy Brackett” to help William Faulkner write the script for The Big Sleep (1946). The film, starring Humphrey Bogart and written by Brackett, William Faulkner, and Jules Furthman, is considered one of the best movies ever made in the genre. However, after her marriage, Brackett took a long break from screenwriting.
When she returned to screenwriting in the mid-1950s, she wrote for both TV and movies. Howard Hawks hired her to write or co-write several John Wayne pictures, including Rio Bravo (1959), Hatari! (1962), El Dorado (1966) and Rio Lobo (1970). Because of her background with The Big Sleep, Robert Altman hired her to write his deconstruction of Raymond Chandler's stories, The Long Goodbye (1973).  The Empire Strikes Back
Brackett worked on the screenplay for The Empire Strikes Back. The movie won the Hugo Award in 1981. This script was a departure for Brackett, since until then, all of her science fiction had been in the form of novels and short stories.
The exact role which Brackett played in writing the script for Empire is the subject of some dispute. What is agreed on by all is that George Lucas asked Brackett to write the screenplay based on his story outline. It is also known that Brackett wrote a finished first draft which was delivered to Lucas shortly before Brackett's death from cancer on March 18, 1978. Two drafts of a new screenplay were written by Lucas and, following the delivery of the screenplay for Raiders of the Lost Ark, turned over to Lawrence Kasdan for a new approach. Both Brackett and Kasdan (though not Lucas) were given credit for the final script.
Many reviewers believed that they could detect traces of Brackett's influence in both the dialogue and the treatment of the space opera genre in Empire. However, Laurent Bouzereau, in his book Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays, states that Lucas disliked the direction of Brackett's screenplay and discarded it. He then produced two screenplays before turning the results over to Kasdan, who did not work directly with Brackett's script at all. It is speculation if Lucas' assignment of credit to Brackett was a mere courtesy, a mark of respect for the work she had done during her illness, or a contractual obligation. Support for the latter view comes from Stephen Haffner, owner of the press that printed Martian Quest: The Early Brackett, who has read Brackett's script, and claims that—outside Lucas' storyline—nothing of Brackett's personal contributions survives in the finished movie.
Brackett's screenplay has never been officially or legally published. According to Haffner, it can be read at one of two locations: 1) the library of the Eastern New Mexico University in Portales, New Mexico, but may not be copied or borrowed off-site; and 2) the archives at Lucasfilm, Ltd. in California. In 2010, the unpublished script was leaked online.