Barry, Philip, 1896-1949

Alternative names
Birth 1896-06-18
Death 1949-12-03

Biographical notes:

American playwright Philip Jerome Quinn Barry was born on June 18, 1896 in Rochester, N.Y. He was the youngest of the four children of James Corbett Barry and Mary Agnes Quinn. James Barry was a successful marble and tile contracter whose family had emigrated from Ireland when he was ten. His wife, also of Irish descent, was a Philadelphian, daughter of the proprietor of a lumber business. Barry matriculated at Yale University in 1913, but, war service intervening, did not receive his B.A. until 1919. In 1922 he married Ellen Semple and the following year achieved his first major success, "You and I", which ran for 170 performances on Broadway. The ensuing years saw both hits such as "Tomorrow and tomorrow" (1931) and flops such as "Spring dance" (1934). However, on March 28, 1939, the play which would assure his lasting fame, "The Philadelphia story", debuted at the Schubert Theater in New York. Its 417 performances would not be equaled by another Barry play, though "Without love" of 1942 achieved a more than respectable run of 113. Philip and Ellen S. Barry had two sons, Philip S. and Jonathan Peter, and a daughter who died in infancy. Philip Barry suffered a fatal heart attack on Dec. 3, 1949.

From the description of The Philip Barry papers, 1930-1984 (bulk 1930-1949) (Georgetown University). WorldCat record id: 71229518

Epithet: Reverend; of Navan

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000000814.0x000381

Epithet: Major Royal Engineers

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000000350.0x000352

Epithet: of Garrygort, county Cork

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000000814.0x000380

Barry was an American dramatist; George Pierce Baker was a Harvard graduate (1887) and a Harvard faculty member in the English dept. (1888-1924), where he instituted in 1906 a class on playwriting techniques called the 47 Workshop.

From the description of Plays, ca. 1920-ca. 1936. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 82629423

Epithet: felon

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000000814.0x00037f

American playwright Philip (James Quinn) Barry, who was born on June 18, 1896, in New York City, had a successful career writing plays for Broadway, particularly comedies.

Written in 1945, Barry's play Foolish Notion was one of three plays, along with Liberty Jones (1941) and Without Love (1942), which reflected the author's concerns with World War II. Philip Barry had just completed a draft of a final play, Second Threshold, when he died on December 3, 1949.

"Philip James Quinn Barry." Dictionary of American Biography (reproduced in Biography In Context). (accessed May 16, 2013).

From the guide to the Foolish Notion : a Comedy : production script, 1945, (University of Delaware Library - Special Collections)

Philip Jerome Quinn Barry (1896-1949) was a 20th-century American playwright most widely known for comedies he authored during the 1920s and 1930s, including Paris Bound (1927), Holiday (1928), and The Philadelphia Story (1939). Born in Rochester, New York, Barry was the third and youngest son of a successful Irish immigrant father and an Irish-American mother from Philadelphia. After graduating from Yale in 1919, Barry attended George Pierce Baker's legendary 47 Workshop at Harvard, where he won the prestigious Richard Herndon Prize in 1922 for The Jilts . Subsequently produced by Herndon on Broadway as You and I, this script was the first of several composed before1930 that would establish Barry's reputation for high comedy and repartee. Together with the comedies of manners for which he was most popularly received, Barry authored a number of serious dramas tending toward religious and existential themes, including Tomorrow and Tomorrow (1931) and the more experimental Hotel Universe (1930) and Here Come the Clowns (1938). Barry's career as a playwright peaked in 1939 with the production of The Philadelphia Story, starring Katharine Hepburn, which was adapted to the screen the following year in a film featuring Hepburn, James Stewart, and Cary Grant.

Barry married Ellen Semple (1898-1995) in 1922. The two divided their time primarily between their homes in Manhattan and Mount Kisco, New York. They were the parents of two sons, Philip Semple Barry and Jonathan Peter Barry, and a daughter who died in infancy in 1933. Philip Barry died of a heart attack in 1949 at the age of 53.

From the guide to the Philip Barry papers, 1917-1950, (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library)


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  • Theater--20th century
  • Playwriting
  • Dramatists, American
  • American literature--20th century
  • American drama--20th century
  • Humorous plays--20th century
  • Dramatists, American--20th century
  • Theater--United States
  • Theater--Production and direction--United States
  • Authors, American--20th century--Archives


  • Dramatists
  • Playwrights
  • Authors


  • Blackburn, Lancashire (as recorded)
  • Mallow, Cork (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Colne, Lancashire (as recorded)
  • Nells, Meath (as recorded)
  • Canada, North America (as recorded)
  • Bradford, West Riding of Yorkshire (as recorded)
  • Lancashire, England (as recorded)
  • Ogdensburg, U.S.A (as recorded)
  • Flintshire, Wales (as recorded)
  • Cork, Ireland (as recorded)
  • Carlisle, Cumberland (as recorded)