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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 (6)

One of the few 20th-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.
His oldest son Quentin (with wife Margaret; b. 1914 in Minnewauken, North Dakota; d. 2003) 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".
"High Tor" is a 1936 play by Maxwell Anderson (1888-1959, 70). Twenty years after the original Broadway production, Maxwell Anderson adapted the stage play into a television musical play with stage and film composer Arthur Schwartz (1900-1984, 83), providing the score. Presented on CBS's "The Ford Star Jubilee" in a 90 minute "color film" television special, transmitted electronically as a broadcast presentation starring Bing Crosby. This 35mm-camera color Hollywood filmed production was the only television special NOT performed as a normally scheduled 90 minute-live-color electronic-broadcast-transmission in front of a live studio audience in a CBS video studio facility. The play "High Tor" is named for a summit overlooking the Tappan Zee portion of New York's Hudson River, near where Anderson lived in Rockland County. The story was inspired by the real life controversy over quarrying the palisades along the lower Hudson. The play also shares the plot element of a ghostly crew of Dutch sailors on the Hudson with Washington Irving's short story Rip Van Winkle. Anderson (at age 58) began writing the play in May 1936. The play "High Tor" was first presented on stage in Cleveland, Ohio, in December 1936. Maxwell Anderson's neighbor in Rockland County, actor Burgess Meredith and Peggy Ashcroft appeared in the stage play's lead roles. The Cleveland production moved to Broadway ten days later on January 9, performed through June, 1937, where it played 171 performances at the Martin Beck Theatre. Anderson won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for the best American play of the 1936-1937 season. The award included this citation: 'In its decision the circle celebrates the advent of the first distinguished fantasy by an American in many years. Imaginative and as comic as it is poetic in both spirit and expression, High Tor is a singular accomplishment, giving rare grace to this theatrical season in New York'. In 1942, Anderson helped organize and served as the chairman of the Rockland County Committee To Save High Tor, which helped raise money to purchase the property in 1943 for the creation of a public park.
Maxwell Anderson (at age 61 in 1949) first considered a musical adaptation of "High Tor" for television in 1949. Mid-1954 Bill Paley (CBS) first approached Maxwell Anderson with the intent to produce the play for his newly planned anthology series "The Ford Star Jubilee". During production development, Maxwell Anderson (at age 66) and John Monks Jr. (at age 44; b.1910-2004, 94) adapted the play specifically as a made-for-television musical fantasy in early 1955, with music composed by Arthur Schwartz (at age 54) and lyrics by Maxwell Anderson. Another factor to consider in the relationship and history between Bing Crosby (b.1904-1977, 77) and William S. Paley (b.1901-1990, 89) should be noted: In the mid 1930s, Bill Paley signed and contracted Bing Crosby (at age 32) to be a regular radio performer on his daily-and-weekly CBS radio network schedule. Bing Crosby (at age 51 in 1955) became the leading drive for the "High Tor" project which brought indirectly creative film talents at Paramount Studios where Crosby's Production office was situated. Because Crosby was uncomfortable with the exigencies of live television, performing 90 minutes non-stop in front of a television studio audience, he insisted that it be filmed. Bing Crosby did not want to use the CBS Hollywood Television City studio facility nor the New York Studio 72 stage. Situated adjacent to Paramount Studios is the former RKO-Pathé Film studio/stages. renamed Desilu Studios when husband and wife comedy team Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball acquired the studio to film their CBS television series "I Love Lucy." The Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz television "filmed" production unit had pioneered a number of methods, still in use in television production - filming before a live studio audience with a number of cameras; this established the multiple camera filming procedure to produce, edit, and deliver their filmed show to the CBS network. Paramount Studios negotiated with the Desilu studio facilities to utilize the Desilu "I Love Lucy" production unit facility system, their feature-film production crew in staging, filming, editing and delivering the color film musical special to CBS. Network executives considered the use of film an unnecessary extravaganza. Bing Crosby convinced CBS to allow him to cover all additional costs with filming "High Tor". The total cost of the CBS production was $450,000.00, the most expensive television production up to that time, and the first special filmed for broadcast by CBS. Bing Crosby was reportedly paid $375,000.00. The production was filmed during the month of November 1955 on the Desilu Studios' lot-stages with 35mm cameras. Director of photographer Lester Shorr (at age 48,1907-1992, 85) experienced in filming filmed productions for network clients was part of the Hollywood Paramount-Desilu production package. Two Hollywood directors James Neilson (at age 46, 1909-1979, 70) and Franklin J. Schaffner (at age 35, 1920-1989, 69), both had television-film experience with network filmed productions, shared directorial reigns. Discovered in 1948 on stage at UCLA, Paramount signed Nancy Olson (b. 1929) to a studio contract. Nancy Olson as a relatively inexperienced starlet was given the role of a lifetime as script girl Betty Schaefer, who attracts never-do-well writer William Holden and irks reclusive diva Gloria Swanson in the towering classic "Sunset Blvd. (1950). Her pairing with Holden, in fact, went over so well, they were teamed in a succession of Paramount standard features. With these film credentials Nancy Olson (at age 26) was cast in the musical project. Nancy married to renowned lyricist Alan Jay Lerner knew that Julie Andrews (age 20; b. 1935) had been discovered by her husband lyricist Alan Lerner and composer Frederick Loewe having seen Andrews' Broadway debut in the British hit musical "The Boy Friend" (1954-1955, 485 performances). Julie Andrews had been signed to perform the Eliza Doolittle role in their Broadway bound musical "My Fair Lady". Bing Crosby (at age 52; b.1903-1977, 74) had also seen Julie Andrews in her Broadway debut in "The Boy Friend" and invited her to appear in his television-musical "High Tor". It was Andrews' first work in a Hollywood color film-production, and her American television debut. Hollywood film and Broadway stage performers Hans Corned (age 38; b.1917-1982, 65), Keenan Wynn (age 39; b.1916-1986-70), Everett Sloane (age 46; b. 1909-1965, 55), John Pickard (age 42; b. 1913-1993, 80), Lloyd Corrigan (age 54; b. 1900-1969, 69) completed the illustrious cast; James Neilson (age 46; 1919-1979, 70) was an established Hollywood film director. Arthur Schwartz, who had also produced films for Columbia Pictures, was a highly successful stage/film composer. The songs Arthur Scwartz composed in collaboration with Maxwell Anderson as lyricist for "High Tor" follow: "Living One Day at a Time"/"When You're in Love" - Bing Crosby; "Sad Is the Life of the Sailor's Wife - Julie Andrews; "When You're in Love - Everett Sloane and Julie Andrews; "A Little Love, a Little While"- Bing Crosby; "When you're in Love" (reprise) - Everett Sloane; "John Barleycorn"- Bing Crosby; "Once Upon a Long Ago"- Julie Andrews; "Once Upon a long Ago"- Bing Crosby; "John Barleycorn"- Bing Crosby & chorus; "A Little love, A Little While (reprise) - Bing Crosby. "High Tor" is considered the first television film musical. "High Tor" was broadcast Saturday night, March 10, 1956 as a 90 minute color production on the CBS television network's short one season series "The Ford Star Jubilee". The following week on a Thursday night, Julie Andrews and Alan Lerner and Frederick Loewe's musical-play "My Fair Lady" premiered on Broadway on March 15, 1956. Maxwell Anderson had little interest in television, and considered his adaptation a "potboiling job". Julie Andrews later wrote that she thought her performance was "very stilted," and, "Alas, High Tor was not a memorable piece, and received only lukewarm reviews." The song score of the show, with story narration by Bing Crosby, was released by Decca Records in 1956.

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 [Johann Wolfgang Goethe] that dramatic poetry is man's greatest achievement on earth so far, and I believe with the early [George Bernard Shaw] that the theatre is essentially a cathedral of the spirit, devoted to the exaltation 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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