Connolly graduated from Boston College in 1918 and spent the next few years, after a brief stint in the navy, working as a newspaper reporter for the Boston Post. In 1924, he became the editor of Columbia,the magazine of the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic men’s organization. Four years later, Connolly published his first novel, Mr. Blue.
A year later, Joseph Kennedy, patriarch of the Boston political clan, persuaded Connolly to get involved in the movie business. Kennedy had purchased a studio called Film Booking Offices of America in 1926, and in 1928, with the advent of sound, he merged the company with others. And so was born RKO, one of the dominant studios of the 1930s and 1940s. Connolly spent the rest of his career in Hollywood working as a producer and a screenwriter, often uncredited in the latter capacity.
Connolly’s credits for RKO and other studios during his decades of screenwriting include Till the Clouds Roll By (1946), a biopic of the composer Jerome Kern; State of the Union (1948), a Spencer Tracy/Katharine Hepburn comedy about a political couple; and Music for Millions (1944), featuring child star Margaret O’Brien, for which Connolly received an Academy Award nomination.
Perhaps one of Connolly’s most important collaborations was with the director Frank Capra, remembered primarily for his comedies touched with compassion for the “common man.” Connolly is often credited, even by Capra himself, with encouraging the director to take his work beyond the frothy conventions of the day and inject a level of moral awareness into his work. Their collaboration, with Connolly working either as a story editor or simply as an uncredited adviser, began with the Oscar-winning It Happened One Night (1934), starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, and continued through many other films.
Aside from films, Connolly wrote several works of fiction: The Bump on Brannigan’s Head (1950), Dan England and the Noonday Devil (1951), The Reason for Ann (1953), and Three Who Ventured (1958).
Connolly and his wife, Agnes Bevington, to whom Mr. Blue is dedicated, raised five children.
Connolly died in 1964 after undergoing open-heart surgery. One of his daughters, Ann, told the writer Roy Peter Clark,