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Biography

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Overview (2)

Date of Birth 15 December 1888Atlantic, Pennsylvania, USA
Date of Death 28 February 1959Stamford, Connecticut, USA  (stroke)

Mini Bio (2)

James Maxwell Anderson was born in Atlantic, Pennsylvania, on December 15, 1888 to William Lincoln Anderson and Charlotte Perrimela (Stephenson) Anderson. The second child born to the couple, Anderson spent his formative years on his maternal grandmother's farm in Atlantic before the family moved to Andover, Ohio when he was three years old. His father attended a seminary at night to study for the ministry while he supported the family as a railroad fireman.

His father took up the life of a traveling minister, moving his family frequently until Anderson was in his late teens. Anderson attended schools in Ohio, Iowa, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania. The Anderson family's life was a vagabond one until they settled in Jamestown, North Dakota in 1907.

After graduating from Jamestown High School, Anderson went to the University of North Dakota in 1908. He worked his way through college as a waiter and serving on the night copy desk of the newspaper "The Grand Forks Herald." He was a member of the literary society Ad Altiora at UND and helped put together the "Dacotah" Annual. He also participated in college theatrics, serving as assistant director for the Sock and Buskin Dramatic Society.

Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature in June 1911, Anderson married his UND classmate Margaret Haskett, a farmer's daughter, on August 1, 1911. They eventually had three sons, Quentin, Alan, and Terence.

His first job after college was serving as the principal of the Minnewaukan, North Dakota high school, where he doubled as an English teacher. After making pacifist comments to his students, his contract was not renewed, and he moved to Palo Alto, California, where he enrolled in a master's program in English Lit at Stanford University. After graduating from Stanford in 1914, he spent three years as a high school English teacher in San Francisco before accepting an offer to become chairman of Whittier College's English Department in 1917. Once again he got in trouble with his pro-pacifist statements, and he was fired after his first year for speaking out publicly on behalf of a student seeking conscientious objector status during World War I.

Moving back to San Francisco, he worked as a journalist on the "San Francisco Chronicle" and the "San Francisco Bulletin," then moved to New York City to take an editorial position on the liberal periodical "The New Republic." He continued his work as a newspaperman, becoming a stringer for the "New York Globe" and the New York World." He also found time to help launch the poetry magazine "Measure."

Turning his interest to the theater, he wrote his first play in 1923. Written in verse, "White Desert" was a flop, lasting only 12 performances, but it attracted the attention of "New York World" critic Laurence Stallings. Stallings chose Maxwell as his collaborator on his World War One play "What Price Glory?" Opening on September 3, 1924, the play was one of the stage sensations of the decade, earning kudos and running for 430 performances. The financial rewards of helping create such a big boffo box office blockbuster enabled Anderson to retire from journalism and become a full-time dramatist.

Many of his plays were written in verse, and they typically touch on social and moral problems, such as "Winterset" (1935), which addressed the Sacco & Vanzetti trials in fictional form. The play, which won the first New York Critics Circle Award, is about a gangster who visits the children of the anarchists executed for the murder he himself committed. Anderson won the 1933 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play "Both Your Houses," and repeated as the New York Critics Circle Award winner for "High Tor" in 1936. He wrote many historical dramas and two librettos for Kurt Weill, "Knickerbocker Holiday" (1938) and "Lost in the Stars" (1940). He was also a lyricist, his most famous creation being "September Song" from "Knickerbocker Holiday."

His plays included "Elizabeth the Queen" (1930), "Mary of Scotland " (1933), "Key Largo" (1939); "Truckline Café" (1945), "Joan of Lorraine" (1946), "Anne of the Thousand Days" (1947), and "The Bad Seed" (1954). Anderson also worked on numerous screenplays, including All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), for which he received an Academy Award nomination, Washington Merry-Go-Round (1932), Rain (1932) , Death Takes a Holiday (1934), and So Red the Rose (1935).

Plays of his that were turned into movies were "Mary of Scotland (1936), "Saturday's Children," which was filmed three times (once as "Maybe It's Love"), Winterset (1936), "Elizabeth the Queen", which became The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939), The Eve of St. Mark (1944), Knickerbocker Holiday (1944). Key Largo (1948), "Joan of Lorraine," which became Joan of Arc (1948), The Bad Seed (1956), "The Devil's Hornpipe", which became Never Steal Anything Small (1959), and Anne of the Thousand Days (1969). "What Price Glory?" was made into a silent film in 1926 and was remade by John Ford in 1952.

He published two books of poetry, "You Who Have Dreams" in 1925, and "Notes on a Dream," published posthumously in 1972. Anderson also published two collections of essays, "The Essence of Tragedy and Other Footnotes and Papers" (1939) and "Off Broadway Essays About the Theatre" (1947).

His wife Margaret died on February 26, 1931, and he remarried in 1933, taking Gertrude "Mab" Higger as his second wife. They had a daughter, Hesper, born on August 12, 1934, and when Gertrude died on March 21, 1953, he married Gilda Hazard on June 6, 1954.

Among his many honors were honorary Doctor of Literature degrees from Columbia University in 1946 and the University of North Dakota in 1958, and the National Institute of Arts and Letters' Gold Medal in Drama in 1954.

Maxwell Anderson had a stroke on February 26, 1959 and died two days later in Stamford, Connecticut. His oeuvre included over thirty published plays and over a dozen unpublished ones.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jon C. Hopwood

Author, playwright, reporter and lyricist ("The September Song", "Lost in the Stars"), he was educated at the University of North Dakota (BA) and Stanford University (MA). He taught school in N. Dakota and California, then reported news for the Grand Forks (ND) 'Herald' and the San Francisco (CA) 'Chronicle'. He was an editorial writer for the 'New Republic', the 'Evening Globe', and the 'Morning World' between 1914 and 1918. He wrote the plays "What Price Glory?"; "Saturday's Children"; "Elizabeth the Queen"; "Both Your Houses"; "Mary of Scotland"; "Valley Forge"; "Winterset"; "The Masque of Kings"; "The Wingless Victory"; "High Tor" (also the TV score, 1956); "Key Largo"; and "The Bad Seed". He wrote the lyrics for the Broadway stage scores for "Knickerbocker Holiday" and "Lost in the Stars". His chief musical collaborators include Kurt Weill and Arthur Schwartz. In 1939, he joined ASCAP. Besides "The September Song" and "Lost in the Stars", his lyrics include those for the songs "Cry, The Beloved Country"; "When You're in Love"; "There's Nowhere to Go but Up"; "It Never Was You"; "Stay Well"; "Trouble Man"; and "Thousands of Miles".

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Hup234!

Spouse (3)

Gilda Hazard (6 June 1954 - 28 February 1959) (his death)
Gertrude Higger (October 1933 - 21 March 1953) (her death) (1 child)
Margaret Haskett (1 August 1911 - 26 February 1931) (her death) (3 children)

Trade Mark (1)

Frequently wrote in blank verse

Trivia (4)

One of the few twentieth-century American playwrights to write many of his plays in blank verse ("Elizabeth the Queen", "Mary of Scotland", "Anne of the Thousand Days", etc.)
His papers are housed in the Elwyn B. Robinson Department of Special Collections at the University of North Dakota's Chester Fritz Library in Grand Forks, North Dakota.
Quentin Anderson (born 1914 in Minnewauken, North Dakota; died 2003), the oldest son of Maxwell Anderson and his wife Margaret, was a professor at Columbia Univiversity from 1939-1981. A noted literary critic and cultural historian, he was an expert on 19th-century American literature. Among his books are "The American Henry James" (1957), "The Imperial Self" (1971), and "Making Americans" (1992).
Won the 1933 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the play "Both Your Houses".

Personal Quotes (2)

If you practice an art, be proud of it and make it proud of you It may break your heart, but it will fill your heart before it breaks it; it will make you a person in your own right.
I believe with Goethe that dramatic poetry is man's greatest achievement on earth so far, and I believe with the early Bernard Shaw that the theatre is essentially a cathedral of the spirit, devoted to the exhaltation of men, and boasting an apostolic succession of inspired high poets which extends further into the past than the Christian line of St. Peter.

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