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Biography

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Overview (3)

Date of Birth 16 November 1889Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Date of Death 2 June 1961New York City, New York, USA  (kidney disease)
Birth NameGeorge Simon Kaufman

Mini Bio (2)

American playwright of acerbic wit. Twice won the Pulitzer Prize, and is best known for his collaborative authorship of "Once in a Lifetime," with Moss Hart (1930); "Of Thee I Sing," with Morrie Ryskind and Ira Gershwin (1931); "Dinner at Eight," with Edna Ferber (1932); "You Can't Take It with You" and "The Man Who Came to Dinner," again with Hart (1936 and 1939, respectively) and "The Solid Gold Cadillac," with Howard Teichmann (1953). (George Gershwin supplied the music for "Of Thee I Sing.")

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Bill Takacs <kinephile@aol.com>

George S. Kaufman, one of the most famous and successful American playwrights of the 20th century, was born on November 16, 1889 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. With the possible exception of Neil Simon, no other comic playwright enjoyed more popular success or exerted more influence over the American stage and cinema than did Kaufman.

Kaufman started out as a newspaper reporter and a drama critic, eventually becoming the drama editor at "The New York Times." He began writing for the stage, and made his Broadway debut with "Some One in the House" in 1918, written in collaboration with Larry Evans and W. C. Percival. Every year from the appearance of his second play "Dulcy" (co-written with Marc Connelly) in 1921 through 1958, when the Kaufman-directed Peter Ustinov play "Romanoff and Juliet" closed, a Kaufman-written or -directed play usually was on the boards on Broadway. (From 1966 to 2003, there have been 12 revivals of Kaufman's plays on Broadway.)

Kaufman nearly always wrote in collaboration with another writer. Of the full-length plays, only "The Butter and Egg Man" (1925) and the musical "Hollwyood Pinafore" (1945) were solo efforts. "The Butter and Egg Man" was a hit, running for 245 performances, but the latter -- a burlesque of Gilbert and Sullivan, with music by Arthur Sullivan and a libretto by Kaufman -- flopped.

In the golden age of the Broadway theater, Kaufman proved himself to be a master craftsman, particularly adept at comedy and satire. (Of the later, Kaufman famously observed "Satire is what closes on Saturday.") He frequently was brought in by Broadway producers to serve as a script doctor of a promising play, turning it into a hit.

In collaboration with Marc Connelly, he wrote the plays as "Merton of the Movies" (1922), his first classic, which ran for 248 performances, and "Beggar on Horseback" (1924). His "backstage" hit play "The Royal Family" (1927), which was co-written with Edna Ferber, was a spoof of the Barrymore family and ran for 345 performances. "June Moon" (1929), written in collaboration with Ring Lardner, is a spoof of Tin Pan Alley, while he satirized Hollywood in "Once in a Lifetime" (1930), collaborating with Moss Hart.

For the Marx Brothers, Kaufman wrote the stage revues "The Cocoanuts" (1925), which featured lyrics by Irving Berlin, and "Animal Crackers" (1928), which he wrote in collaboration with Morrie Ryskind. Kaufman hated it when the Marx Brothers improvised and, once during an "Animal Crackers" rehearsal, he walked up on-stage and told them, "Excuse me for interrupting, but I thought for a minute I actually heard a line I wrote".

Kaufman traveled to Hollywood, which he hated, in 1935 at the request of the Marx Brothers, who inveigled MGM production supervisor Irving Thalberg to hire him. Thalberg guaranteed Kaufman $100,000 to leave New York for Culver City. When Kaufman arrived at the studio, Thalberg demanded to know when he could see an outline for the script that would become A Night at the Opera (1935).

"I don't know," replied Kaufman.

"Monday?" Thalberg asked.

"I told you. I don't know," replied Kaufman.

"Wednesday?" Thalberg shot back.

Kaufman tugged at his earlobe before answering: "Mr. Thalberg, do you want it Wednesday or good?"

In a 1939 speech he gave at Yale, Kaufman said, "Morrie Ryskind and I once learned a great lesson in the writing of stage comedy. We learned it from the Marx Brothers. We wrote two shows for them, which, by the way, is two more than anybody should be asked to write. Looking back, it seems incredible that this was something we had not known before, but we hadn't. We learned that when an audience does not laugh at a line at which they're supposed to laugh, then the thing to do was to take out that line and get a funnier line. So help me, we didn't know that before. I always thought it was the audience's fault, or when the show got to New York they'd laugh."

George S. Kaufman was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, along with Morrie Ryskind and Ira Gershwin, for "Of Thee I Sing" (1931), a political satire with music supplied by George Gershwin. He won his second Pulitzer for "You Can't Take It with You" (1936), co-written with Moss Hart). Collaborating again with Edna Ferber, they turned out "Dinner at Eight" (1932) and "Stage Door" (1936), while back in harness with Moss Hart, he turned out "The Man Who Came to Dinner" (1939), a burlesque of the American cult of celebrity.

In collaboration with the lyricist Howard Dietz, he wrote the book for the musical revue "The Band Wagon" (1931), which featured Fred Astaire and Adele Astaire. Among his later works are "The Late George Apley" (1944), co-written with John P. Marquand and "The Solid Gold Cadillac" (1953), co-written with Howard Teichmann, 1954. Kaufman was also a theatrical director, directing many successful plays, including "The Front Page (1928), "Of Mice and Men" (1939), "My Sister Eileen" (1940), and "Guys and Dolls" (1950).

He was a member of the celebrated Algonquin Round Table, a circle of witty writers and show business types that met for lunch on a daily basis at the Algonquin Hotel in New York, New York. The group coalesced around Dorothy Parker, who was living in the Algonquin Hotel at the time, and included Alexander Woollcott, Robert Benchley, George S. Kaufman, Edna Ferber, Franklin P. Adams and Harpo Marx.

His wit was famous. When actress-playwright Ruth Gordon described a new play to him, she said, "There's no scenery at all. In the first scene, I'm on the left side of the stage and the audience has to imagine I'm in a crowded restaurant. In Scene Two, I run over to the right side of the stage and the audience has to imagine I'm home in my own drawing room".

"And the second night", Kaufman fore casted, "you'll have to imagine there's an audience out front".

Gordon's husband, the playwright Garson Kanin said, "George S. Kaufman ranks without peer as the wit of the American twentieth century. George's comment, George's cool-off, George's swiftness to pick up the answer was breath-taking.... He was taciturn. He didn't say much, but what he did say was stringent, always to the point, cutting, acid, true or true enough. Which was his great trick. His trick of wit and his trick of criticism wasn't that he found what was true, but he would find what was true enough".

In addition to his two Pulitzer Prizes, he won the 1951 Tony Award for Best Director for "Guys and Dolls."

George S. Kaufman died on June 2, 1961.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jon C. Hopwood

Spouse (2)

Leueen MacGrath (26 May 1949 - 1957) (divorced)
Beatrice Bakrow (15 March 1917 - 6 October 1945) (her death) (1 child)

Trivia (8)

Grandfather of actress Beatrice Colen.
2000: His play, "Merrily We Roll Along", became a Stephen Sondheim musical and was awarded the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for Best New Musical in 2001.
Adoptive father of Anne Kaufman Schneider (born 23 June 1925).
1951: Won Broadway's Tony Award as Best Director for "Guys and Dolls.".
Had a torrid affair with Mary Astor, which was revealed in court during Astor's 1936 divorce trial when she was fighting her husband for custody of their daughter. Her personal diary, which detailed the physical pleasures Kaufman had given her during their affair, was introduced by her husband's lawyers to besmirch her reputation. The resulting scandal only seemed to make her more popular with the public, and likely led to her being cast in her most famous role as the vamp in The Maltese Falcon (1941). Being publicly known as a stud did nothing to hurt Kaufman's reputation, either.
He was only the second playwright to win two Pulitzer Prizes, the first being Eugene O'Neill.
Won the 1932 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the musical "Of Thee I Sing" collaborating with Morrie Ryskind, Ira Gershwin and George Gershwin. He won the 1937 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the play "You Can't Take it with You" collaborating with Moss Hart.
Edna Ferber and his play, "Stage Door," at the Griffin Theatre Company in Chicago, Illinois was nominated for the 2011 Non-Equity Joseph Jefferson Award for Production of a Play.

Personal Quotes (8)

When a community theater group was caught performing one of Kaufman's plays without permission or payment of royalties, Kaufman threatened to send them to jail for theft. The theater director thought they didn't need to pay royalties because, as he put it, "It's just a small, insignificant, little theater in a small, insignificant, little town." Kaufman's reply: "Then we'll send you all to a small, insignificant, little jail."
I like terra firma -- the more firma, the less terra.
(Upon seeing so many billboard ads with an alluring Jane Russell in The Outlaw (1943)) They ought to call it "A Sale of Two Titties".
[on writing for the Marx Brothers who were given to ad-libbing their dialogue] I may be wrong. But I think I just heard one of the original lines.
[advice to a writer who had a spelling problem] I'm not very good at it myself, but the first rule about spelling is that there is only one 'z' in 'is'.
Satire is what closes Saturday night.
[to George Gershwin] If you play that score one more time before we open, people will think you're doing a revival.
I'd bet on George [Gershwin] any time in a hundred yard dash to the piano.

Salary (1)

A Night at the Opera (1935) $100,000

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