(1889-1961) American journalist and playwright.

Born in Pittsburgh, PA, where he began a career in newspaper journalism.

He shares credit for over 40 plays, most of them collaborations. His first commercially successful collaboration was with Marc Connelly in 1921, on Dulcy, as well as Beggar on Horseback (1924) and at least 6 other comedies.

Best known for his work with Moss Hart, in plays that include: You Can't Take It with You (1936) and The Man Who Came to Dinner (1939).

Other collaborators included Larry Evans and Walter Percival, with whom he wrote his first play, Someone in the House (1918). Notable later collaborations include those with Edna Ferber in The Royal Family (1927), Dinner at Eight (1932), and Stage Door (1936),; and with Morrie Ryskind in the book for the musical Of Thee I Sing (1931). He also helped John Steinbeck bring Of Mice and Men to the stage.

While there has been a minor resurgence in interest in his work in recent years, Kaufman's work has frequently been viewed as "conventional in plot and usually devoid of theme."1 In particular, his work on a number of successful musicals, including those with songs by Irving Berlin was overshadowed by the more integrated musical theatre that arose from Rodgers and Hammerstein and the generation of composers and librettists who moved American musical theatre away from pastiche, vaudeville "turns" and other vestiges of the era of the revue and "light entertainment." While full of wit and antic comedy, Kaufman's work often compared poorly to the work that replaced it for several decades. However, the forms and conventions found in Kaufman have made a resurgence of sorts, at least on Broadway stages, as producers find themselves more risk averse, and in need of vehicles that are proven crowdpleasers of the likes of Riverdance and others.

Also, the critical neglect (and possible overreaction) that his work has suffered, has made him a sort of theatrical martyr, and provides a rationale for some directors and producers to make a more forgiving reappraisal of his work, and provide an excuse for the staging of revival productions, which also. oddly enough, happen to sell tickets more easily and predictably than many works whose critical reputation may be of a higher order, but whose marketability is not so lofty.



1 quote from Myron Matlaw, Modern World Drama: An Encyclopedia.

To those that knew him, Kaufman was a fussy eater, a hypochondriac, an insomniac, self-effacing, surreptitiously generous (he personally acted as a fiscal sponsor for scores of Jewish refugees from Hitler's Germany), great in bed (according to Mary Astor's diaries), and though shy, a "conversational guerilla fighter" who fit right in at Alexander Woolcott's Algonquin Round Table-- waiting for just the right moment to deliver a witty and usually devastating remark.

You're a birdbrain, and I mean that as an insult to birds.

Madam, don't you have any unexpressed thoughts?

I understand your play is full of single entendre.

Interrupting the Marx brothers at a rehearsal for Animal Crackers: "Excuse me for interrupting, but I thought for a minute I actually heard something I wrote."

To a theatre producer who had not paid royalties on producing a Kaufman play with the excuse, "After all, it's only a small, insignificant theater." Kaufman: "Then you'll go to a small, insignificant jail."

In the 1950's, George S. Kaufman was a panelist on the American television show, "This is Show Business." Guest celebrities would perform on the show, and then ask the panelists for advice. When pop singer Eddie Fisher appeared on the show, his complaint was that girls refused to date him because of his age (he was in his twenties, while his fans were teenage girls). He asked advice from the panel, and Kaufman replied:

Mr. Fisher, on Mount Wilson there is a telescope that can magnify the most distant stars up to twenty-four times the magnification of any telescope. This remarkable instrument was unsurpassed in the world of astronomy until the construction of the Mount Palomar telescope, an even more remarkable instrument of magnification. Owing to advances and improvements in optical technology, it is capable of magnifying the stars to four times the magnification of the Mount Wilson telescope. Mr. Fisher, if you could somehow put the Mount Wilson telescope inside the Mount Palomar telescope, you still wouldn't be able to detect my interest in your problem.

Source: Winokur, Jon. The Portable Curmudgeon. New York: New American Library, 1987.

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