Howard, Sidney Coe, 1891-1939

Alternative names
Birth 1891-06-26
Death 1939-08-23

Biographical notes:

Sidney Coe Howard was a popular and successful American playwright and screenwriter, becoming the first person to win both a Pulitzer Prize and an Academy Award. Born in Oakland, California, and educated at the University of California at Berkeley and Harvard, he served as an aviator in World War I. After the war he established a reputation as a journalist, investigating the social issues of the day, and publishing both short stories and translations; he found great success as a playwright, winning the 1925 Pulitzer Prize for his popular realistic romance, They Knew What They Wanted. In the late 1920s and 1930s, he wrote a number of acclaimed screenplays for Samuel Goldwyn, culminating with the Academy Award-winning adaptation of Gone With the Wind.

From the description of Sidney Coe Howard letter to Miss Helen Woodward, 1933 June 20. (Pennsylvania State University Libraries). WorldCat record id: 130048239

Playwright, author, Hollywood script writer.

From the description of Sidney Coe Howard papers, 1903-1939. (University of California, Berkeley). WorldCat record id: 122502102

From the description of Sidney Coe Howard papers : additions , 1903-1939. (University of California, Berkeley). WorldCat record id: 86132640

From the description of Letters to Joseph A. Galahad and his sister, Mrs. Harvey , 1919-1922. (University of California, Berkeley). WorldCat record id: 122545263


Sidney Coe Howard, playwright, was born in Oakland, California, June 26, 1891, the son of John Lawrence and Helen (Coe) Howard. He attended public schools in Oakland and was graduated from the University of California in 1915. As an undergraduate he already displayed an interest in the theater, collaborating with Frederick Faust (who later achieved fame under the pseudonym "Max Brand") in writing the junior farce and the senior extravaganza. For Leonard Bacon's poetry seminar he wrote "Sons of Spain," a blank verse tragedy which was produced in the Forest Theatre in Carmel, California, in 1914. From Berkeley Howard went to Harvard to attend Professor George Pierce Baker's famous "47 Workshop" in playwriting.

During World War I he volunteered his services as an ambulance driver, serving in France and in the Balkans. After U.S. entry into the war he enlisted in the air service and was on active duty as a flyer at the French front. On his return to the United States he settled in New York City and joined the staff of Life, eventually becoming a literary editor. As a free-lance reporter, he also wrote a number of articles on current issues which appeared in The Survey, Collier's and The New Republic, and short stories as well.

While holding down these jobs he found time to work on plays, also, the first of which to appear on Broadway was Swords (1921), a melodrama in verse. For the next two seasons Howard devoted himself to translations and adaptations of foreign plays, and to a collaboration with Edward Sheldon, Bewitched, which won for him increased recognition in the theater world. His first big success came in 1924 when the Theatre Guild produced They Knew What They Wanted which was awarded a Pulitzer Prize. 1926 became his most successful year with two plays, Ned McCobb's Daughter and The Silver Cord winning popular acclaim. Hardly a year followed in which his name did not appear on a play as author or adaptor.

From 1929 onward he did much work also as a screen writer, and until his death he divided his time between the stage and the screen. His list of scenario credits includes such successes as Bulldog Drummond, Arrowsmith, which won an Academy Award in 1931, Dodsworth, and Gone With the Wind, for which he was posthumously given an Academy Award in 1940.

A realistic practitioner of his art and a strong spokesman for the profession, he was elected president of the Dramatists' Guild of the Authors' League of America in 1935, serving in the crucial years when a new basic agreement was hammered out between playwrights and producers. In 1938 he, in partnership with Maxwell Anderson, S. N. Behrman, Elmer Rice and Robert E. Sherwood, formed the Playwrights' Company, pooling their dramatic and financial resources to produce their own plays independently.

He was married twice: in 1922 to Clare Eames, actress, niece of Emma Eames, the opera singer, and in 1931 to Leopoldine (Polly) Damrosch, the daughter of Walter Damrosch.

His life was cut short on August 23, 1939, by a tragic accident when a tractor crushed him against the side of a barn on his farm in Tyringham, Massachusetts. The very morning of his death he had been working on a play based on Carl Van Doren's Benjamin Franklin.

From the guide to the Sidney Coe Howard papers, 1903-1939, (The Bancroft Library.)


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  • Motion picture industry
  • Drama (American)
  • Prompt-book
  • Motion picture plays
  • Authors, American--20th century
  • Drama--20th century
  • Male authors, American--20th century--Correspondence
  • Poets, American--20th century
  • World War, 1914-1918
  • Reconstruction--Drama
  • Motion picture industry--Miscellanea
  • Dramatists, American--20th century


  • Authors


  • California (as recorded)
  • California--Hollywood (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • Georgia (as recorded)