For example, my wife was in a dinner theatre production of a Neil Simon play once, so I made up a half dozen new jokes for her, which got just as big laughs as Simon's did. (But this can change over time in a genre: for example, New York playwrights won a lot of legal control away from producers and directors in a 1919 strike. Contractually, I'm not positive we were allowed to alter lines, but I can't imagine an old showman like Neil Simon objecting.)
Pulitzer Prizes won by teams:
Letters and Drama:
General Nonfiction: 2
History: 5 (or 6, if you count one book finished posthumously by another historian)
Biography / Autobiography: 4 (all biographies, I presume)
Feature Writing: 0
Investigative Reporting: 31 (with the award switching from mostly individuals to mostly teams around 1972, the year of Woodward and Bernstein)
Best Original Screenplay: 23
Best Adapted Screenplay: 21
Comedy: From 1955 to 1978, the award was for an entire series: 19 of 24 times it was won by teams (Carl Reiner won twice as an individual for the Dick Van Dyke Show). In the last 31 years, the award has been for a single episode, with 13 of 31 going to teams.
Drama: 16 of the last 31 (for single episodes) have gone to teams.
A few observations:
- Who knows who really contributed what behind the scenes? For example, it recently emerged that the stripped-down style of the hugely influential short story writer Raymond Carver was more or less invented by his editor Gordon Lish by crossing out most of the sentences in his manuscripts. For the Oscars, the Writers Guild offers a credit-dispute resolution process, in which they'll go through different drafts line-by-line to figure out who gets a statue. Of course, nonwriters can have a huge impact on screenplays. For example, Annie Hall (which won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Woodie Allen and Marshall Brickman) was filmed as a murder mystery. Allen's film editor eventually convinced him to cut out most of the plot and patch with voiceover to turn it into the romantic comedy we know today.
- Dialogue-dominated genres seem to tend toward teams more than prose-dominated genres
- Older genres (e.g., poetry) seem more individualistic than newer genres (e.g., TV writing)