Odets, Clifford, 1906-1963

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1906-07-18
Death 1963-08-18
Americans
English

Biographical notes:

Playwright; New York, N.Y.

From the description of Clifford Odets sketches. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 42743828

Clifford Odets was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1906. He left school at age fourteen and worked as an actor in local New York theater groups and traveling stock companies until 1930. That same year the Group Theatre was formed. As one of the founding members, Odets continued acting, but found new release for his creativity in writing plays. It was during this time that he wrote Awake and Sing! and Waiting for Lefty. These two plays marked him as one of the most important playwrights of the period, but not without some controversy. His proletariat themes and suspected affiliations with the Communist Party resulted in his being called to appear before the Senate McCarthy hearings. During the production of his play Paradise Lost in 1935, Odets moved to California having signed with Paramount to write his first screenplay, The General Died at Dawn. Two years later he was back in New York with the Group Theatre until its demise in 1941. He then returned and settled in Hollywood where he produced, directed and/or wrote screenplays for such films as The Country Girl, None But the Lonely Heart, The Story on Page One, and Sweet Smell of Success. Odets was married to and divorced from film actresses Luise Rainer and Bette Grayson. Grayson died unexpectedly in 1954 leaving Odets to raise their two children, Nora and Walt. In 1961 he signed with the television drama series The Richard Boone Show as editor-in-chief. Odets died in August of 1963 before he was able to see two of his own scripts, Big Mitch and The Mafia Man, produced for the series.

From the guide to the Odets mss., 1921-1963, (Lilly Library (Indiana University, Bloomington))

BIOGHIST REQUIRED Clifford Odets was an important American playwright. He was born in 1906 in Philadelphia to Russian and Romanian immigrants. Odets struck out on his own, dropping out of high school, to pursue a career in acting. He was a founding member of the Group Theatre in New York that utilized a new technique in acting based on the ideas of Constantin Stanislavski. The Group Theatre was further developed by director Lee Strasberg. Odets was married twice, both to actresses: Luise Rainer and Bette Grayson. With Grayson, he had two children, Nora and Walt. Odets wrote plays and screenplays, perhaps, best known for his Waiting for Lefty, Awake and Sing, and Golden Boy . In 1952, Odets was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He had belonged to the CPUSA for less than a year between 1934-1935. In his final years, Odets worked with NBC's The Richard Boone Show . Odets died of colon cancer at the age of 57.

From the guide to the Clifford Odets Papers, 1937-1964, [Bulk Dates: 1945-1963], (Columbia University. Rare Book and Manuscript Library)

Playwright.

From the description of Clifford Odets sketches, 1946. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122378588

Playwright, producer, director and screenwriter.

From the description of Papers, 1921-1963. (Indiana University). WorldCat record id: 32174157

From the description of Letters, 1937-1961. (Indiana University). WorldCat record id: 51302730

Clifford Odets, playwright, poet, and actor, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on July 18, 1906.

He came to public attention in 1935 with three critically acclaimed plays: AWAKE AND SING!, WAITING FOR LEFTY and a one-act drama, TILL THE DAY I DIE. His next play, PARADISE LOST, produced in late 1935 was neither a critical nor a financial success. Odets then went to Hollywood and wrote the screenplay for THE GENERAL DIED AT DAWN, which established him as a successful screenwriter. He returned to the theater with the play GOLDEN BOY (1937) which was a success. After a series of stage failures however, Odets returned to Hollywood and tried film directing. NONE BUT THE LONELY HEART was chosen the best film of 1944 by the National Board of Review and won an Academy Award for Ethel Barrymore, but it was a box office failure.

Odets continued to work in Hollywood as a rewrite man and contributed to such films as SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS, HUMORESQUE, and WILD IN THE COUNTRY, starring Elvis Presley. He also continued to write plays. THE COUNTRY GIRL (1950) written during this period was a critical success and considered by many his best work.

In 1952 Odets was questioned by the House Committee on Un-American Activities because of the leftist orientation of many of his plays and because he had been a member of the Communist party briefly in 1935. At his death, Odets was working on a television series and drafts of three plays. He had completed the book for the musical version of GOLDEN BOY. He died August 14, 1963.

From the description of Clifford Odets papers, 1926-1963. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122486135

Clifford Odets was an American playwright prolific from the 1930s through the 1950s and renowned for his plays with Marxist leanings.

He was born July 18, 1906. He joined the Group Theatre of New York after graduating from high school and began to write plays for Broadway, including Awake and Sing! In 1935 he joined the Communist Party and moved to California the following year. In the late 1930s, he gained increasing financial stability through his critically acclaimed works. After his highly successful Golden Boy appeared in 1937, he went on to write numerous plays, including his adaptation of Konstantin Simonov's The Russian People (1942) and the popular The Country Girl (1950). His last play, The Flowering Peach (1954), was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. He lived in Hollywood until his death in 1963.

From the description of Clifford Odets theatrical materials, 1933-1955. (University of California, Irvine). WorldCat record id: 47252771

Playwright, poet and actor, Clifford Odets burst into the public eye in 1935 when four of his plays including the critically acclaimed AWAKE AND SING! and WAITING FOR LEFTY were produced on Broadway.

Other plays followed including GOLDEN BOY (1937), THE COUNTRY GIRL (1950) and THE FLOWERING PEACH (1954). He was also a screenwriter for THE GENERAL DIED AT DAWN (1936) and other movies, and spent most of the 1940s in Hollywood.

From the description of Letters to Edith Rand, 1928-1929. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 144652473

Biography

Clifford Odets was an American playwright prolific from the 1930s through the 1950s and renowned for his plays with Marxist leanings. He was born July 18, 1906 in Philadelphia to immigrant Rumanian and Russian parents. His family moved to New York in 1908. After studying drama in high school and pursuing various minor acting jobs in New York and Philadelphia, he joined the Group Theatre of New York and began to write plays for Broadway, including Awake and Sing! In 1935 he joined the Communist Party and traveled to Cuba as the head of a delegation to investigate atrocities against Cuban artists and writers. He moved to California the following year and married Luise Rainer in 1937. He divorced Rainer in 1939 and was remarried in 1943 to Bette Grayson.

In the late 1930s, he gained increasing financial stability through his critically acclaimed works. After his highly successful Golden Boy appeared in 1937, he went on to write numerous plays, including his adaptation of Konstantin Simonov's The Russian People (1942) and the popular The Country Girl (1950). His last play, The Flowering Peach (1954), was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, but the award was given to Tennessee Williams for his Cat on a Hot Tin Roof . Odets lived in Hollywood until his death in 1968.

From the guide to the Clifford Odets theatrical materials, 1933-1955, (University of California, Irvine. Library. Special Collections and Archives.)

Justin Brooks Atkinson was born in Melrose, Massachusetts in 1894. His interest in writing became apparent at an early age when he began writing and publishing his own newspapers. He continued throughout high school and some of the publications include: The Bay State Amateur, The Coagent, The Melrose Record and The Olympian . Atkinson graduated from Harvard University and from there taught English at Dartmouth. After a working as a reporter in Massachusetts newspapers, Atkinson joined the army in 1918. In 1922 he joined the staff of the New York Times .

Atkinson's career at the New York Times spanned the years 1922 until his final retirement in 1965. His first position there was as editor of the Sunday literary section, although he occasionally wrote play reviews. In 1926 Atkinson became the drama critic of the New York Times, replacing Stark Young. He served in this capacity until his retirement in 1960. In 1941 he took a temporary leave from this position while be worked as a war correspondent during World War II. He officially retired from the New York Times in 1960 when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 65. However, he continued for an additional 5 years writing a twice weekly column known as Critic-At-Large. Atkinson's love of theater revealed itself not only in his frequenting traditional Broadway productions but also by his discovery and encouragement of new talents to be found on the Off Broadway stage. A champion of both traditional and new forms of theater in New York, Atkinson was also known as an outspoken voice against the practices of the McCarthy era and the interrogations of the House Un-American Activities Committee, using his skill as a journalist to inform the public and expose the tactics practiced by Joseph McCarthy and his supporters in their vigilant fight against communism.

Atkinson maintained both professional and personal relationships with some of the foremost playwrights of the 20th century. He carried on a long standing friendship and correspondence with Sean O'Casey which is revealed in the vast amount of correspondence between them. Other friends and acquaintances include Tennessee Williams, Moss Hart, Maxwell Anderson, S. N. Behrman, Robert W. Anderson, George S. Kaufman, Clifford Odets, Robert Sherwood, Thornton Wilder and Eugene O'Neill, among others.

Brooks Atkinson was honored throughout his life both by his peers and those he served in the theater community by numerous awards and honors. In 1947, he won a Pulitzer prize for a series of articles which he had written when he was in Moscow in 1945. He was awarded the Antoinette Perry Award for his "distinguished achievement in the theater" and was the only critic to have a Broadway theater named after him. Honorary awards include membership in the Players and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Atkinson not only wrote as a journalist but also published many other works on the theater and other topics. Some of his titles include: Broadway Scrapbook, The Cingalese Prince, The Lively Years, Tuesdays and Thursdays, Broadway, and This Bright Land . He also edited and wrote the forward for a volume about the works of his long-time friend, Sean O'Casey entitled The O'Casey Reader .

Atkinson died in Huntsville, Alabama on January 13, 1984.

From the guide to the Brooks Atkinson papers, 1904-1980, (The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.)

Clifford Odets, playwright, actor, and poet was born in Philadelphia on July 18, 1906, the son of Lithuanian Jewish immigrants. When he was six, the family moved to the Bronx where his father, Louis Odets became a successful printer. However, despite his father's success, they eventually moved back to Philadelphia. Odets' father wanted him to join his advertising company, but Odets refused since he wanted to become an actor. In 1923, Odets dropped out of high school after two years and began to write poetry. His father was furious, but eventually accepted it and gave him his consent to pursue a career in the theater world.

Odets held minor jobs in his early years in the theater. He played bit parts with a neighborhood acting company called Drawing Room Players. He then began working for a radio station in the Bronx as an announcer and a radio playwright. After this, he acted with various stock companies. At the age of twenty he joined Mae Desmond's Stock Company. Two years later, in 1928 he joined the Theatre Guild. He played minor roles during his days in the Theatre Guild and later joined its offspring the Group Theatre. Odets' acting career was going nowhere and it was increasingly evident that he did not have the talent to become a successful actor. This marked the beginning of his career as a playwright.

Clifford Odets is known as the proletarian playwright of the 1930's because his plays reflect the lives of the working class during that period. In 1933, Odets wrote Awake and Sing, a story about the trials and tribulations of a Jewish family living in the Bronx. However, Odets could not find a producer for it. He then wrote Waiting for Lefty a one act play about the taxi drivers' struggle against low wages. This he entered in the New York Theatre League contest and won first prize. The Group Theatre produced it in 1935. In the same year the league produced his play Awake and Sing and began staging his anti-Nazi play entitled Till the Day I Die . Along with these three plays, a fourth play was produced entitled Paradise Lost . The play features a family, symbolic of the American middle class battling against economic and social problems.

Despite his personal success as a playwright for the Group Theatre, the depression caused major financial trouble for the organization, during the early thirties. In 1936, to help the League, Odets began working in Hollywood as a writer and producer. Odets stayed in Hollywood for a year and a half and earning $2,500 a week as a screenwriter.

After working in Hollywood, Odets returned to New York with a new play entitled Golden Boy, considered by many to be his best work. Golden Boy catapulted his career and made him famous. The play's theme is about the pursuit of American success and tells the story of a violinist who discovers that he can make more money using his boxing skills rather than his musical talent. With elements of romance, achievement, and tragedy, the story was a success. Odets wrote two plays Rocket to the Moon and Night Music, with Harold Clurman. Other plays that he wrote were Clash By Night, The Russian People, The Big Knife, The Flowering Peach, The Silent Partner, and The Law of Flight . His last Broadway success The Country Girl, was produced in 1950.

In 1952, Odets was questioned by the House Committee on Un-American Activities because of the leftist orientation of many of his plays and because he had been a member of the Communist party in 1935. Clifford Odets was married twice, first to the British actress Louise Rainer and then to actress Betty Grayson. Both marriages ended in divorce. Odets had two children, Nora and Walt, from his marriage to Betty Grayson.

At his death, Odets was working on a television series and drafts of three plays. He had completed the book for the musical version of Golden Boy . He died August 14, 1963 in Los Angeles.

From the guide to the Clifford Odets papers, 1926-1963, (The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.)

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Subjects:

  • American drama--20th century--Archival resources
  • Theater critics
  • Theater--20th century
  • Theater--Archival resources
  • World War, 1939-1945--China
  • Theater--Production and direction
  • Theater--New York (State)--New York
  • American drama--20th century
  • Motion pictures--Production and direction
  • Theater
  • Dramatists, American--20th century--Biography
  • Dramatists, American
  • Off--Broadway theater
  • Anti-communist movements--United States

Occupations:

  • Playwrights
  • Librettists

Places:

  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • New York (State)--New York (as recorded)