A refugee of the Russian Czarist regime, Joseph "Jo" Swerling grew up on New York's lower East Side, where he sold newspapers to help support his family. Swerling moved up the journalist ladder to become a newspaper and magazine writer in the early '20s, then launched a prolific playwriting career, scoring a major success with 1929's The Kibitzer, which he co-wrote with actor Edward G. Robinson (among his later Broadway efforts was the 1950 musical blockbuster Guys and Dolls). Also in 1929, Swerling was brought to Hollywood by Columbia Pictures chieftain Harry Cohn. Summoned to Cohn's office to assess the screenplay for the latest Frank Capra picture, Swerling angrily derided the script as trash, and vowed that he could do better without even trying. Impressed by this display of bravado, Cohn and Capra ordered the writer to put up or shut up. The result was Ladies of Leisure (1930), the first of several fruitful Capra-Swerling collaborations, culminating in the 1946 classic It's a Wonderful Life. Some have claimed that Frank Capra's fabled cinematic populism was more due to Swerling, a Roosevelt Democrat, than Capra, a rock-ribbed Republican (whatever the case, the collaboration ended abruptly when Swerling, like many others before him, finally tired of Capra's credit-hogging tendencies). Active in films until 1961, Swerling wrote for many other top Hollywood directors; in 1942, he shared an Academy Award nomination for his work on Sam Wood's Pride of the Yankees (1942). Jo Swerling was the father of TV writer/producer/director Jo Swerling Jr.