Family: Born December 13, 1890, in McKeesport, PA; died December 21, 1980, in New York, NY; son of Patrick Joseph (an actor and hotel owner) and Mabel Louise (an actress; maiden name, Cook) Connelly; married Madeline Hurlock, 1930 (divorced, 1935). Education: Attended Trinity Hall, Washington, PA, 1902-07. Memberships: American Federation of TV & Radio Artists, Authors League of America (past president), National Institute of Arts and Letters (president, 1953-56), Actors Equity Association, Dramatists Guild (founding member), Screen Actors Guild, Players Club (New York, NY), Dutch Treat Club (New York, NY), Savage Club (London).
Playwright, actor, director and producer. Pittsburgh Press and Gazette Times, Pittsburgh, PA, reporter, 1908-16; New York Morning Telegraph, New York, NY, reporter, 1916-21; Yale University, New Haven, CT, professor of playwriting, 1946-50. Lecturer and teacher at several colleges and universities throughout the United States. Actor in plays, including Our Town, New York City Center, 1944, in films The Spirit of St. Louis, 1957, and Tall Story, 1959, and in the television series The Defenders, 1963. Director of Broadway plays, including many of his own, beginning with The Wisdom Tooth, 1926; co-director of film version of his play The Green Pastures: A Fable Suggested by Roark Bradford's Southern Sketches "Ol' Man Adam an' His Chillun," 1936.
O. Henry Short Story Prize, 1930, for "Coroner's Inquest"; Pulitzer Prize for Drama, 1930, for The Green Pastures; Little David: An Unproduced Scene from "The Green Pastures" appeared in The Best One-Act Plays of 1937; honorary degree from Bowdoin College, 1952, and Baldwin-Wallace College, 1962; received a certificate of appreciation at New York's City Hall on the occasion of his 90th birthday, 1980.
WRITINGS BY THE AUTHOR:
- A Souvenir from Qam (novel), Holt, 1965.
- Voices Off-Stage: A Book of Memories, Holt, 1968.
- 2.50 (one-act), first produced in Pittsburgh, 1914.
- (Author of lyrics) The Amber Express, produced in New York at Globe Theatre, September 19, 1916.
- Erminie (a revision of the operetta by Henry Paulton), first produced in New York at Park Theatre, January 3, 1921.
- (With George S. Kaufman) Dulcy (three-act; first produced in New York at Frazee Theatre, August 13, 1921), Putnam, 1921.
- (With Kaufman) To the Ladies! (three-act; first produced in New York at Liberty Theatre, February 20, 1922), Samuel French, 1923.
- (With Kaufman) The '49ers (a revue), first produced in New York at Punch and Judy Theatre, November 7, 1922.
- (With Kaufman) Merton of the Movies (four-act; first produced on Broadway at Cort Theatre, November 13, 1922), Samuel French, 1925.
- (With Kaufman) Helen of Troy, New York (musical comedy), first produced in New York at Selwyn Theatre, June 19, 1923.
- (With Kaufman) The Deep Tangled Wildwood (comedy), first produced in New York at Frazee Theatre, November 5, 1923.
- (With Kaufman) Beggar on Horseback (comedy; first produced on Broadway at Broadhurst Theatre, February 12, 1924), Liveright.
- (With Kaufman) Be Yourself (musical comedy), first produced in New York at Harris Theatre, September 3, 1924.
- The Wisdom Tooth: A Fantastic Comedy (three-act; first produced on Broadway at Little Theatre, February 15, 1926), Samuel French, 1927.
- (With Herman J. Mankiewicz) The Wild Man of Borneo (comedy), first produced in New York at Bijou Theatre, September 13, 1927.
- How's the King? (musical comedy), first produced in New York, 1927.
- The Green Pastures: A Fable Suggested by Roark Bradford's Southern Sketches "Ol' Man Adam an' His Chillun (first produced in New York at Mansfield Theatre, February 26, 1930), Farrar & Rinehart, 1929, reprinted, Holt, 1959.
- The Survey (a skit), published in New Yorker, 1934.
- (With Frank B. Elser) The Farmer Takes a Wife (comedy; an adaptation of the novel Rome Haul by Walter Edmonds), first produced on Broadway at Forty-sixth Street Theatre, October 30, 1934, abridged edition contained in Best Plays of 1934-35, edited by Burns Mantle, Dodd, 1935.
- Little David: An Unproduced Scene from "The Green Pastures (one-act), Dramatists Play Service, 1937.
- (With Arnold Sundgaard) Everywhere I Roam, first produced in New York at National Theatre, December 29, 1938.
- The Traveler (one-act), Dramatists Play Service, 1939.
- The Flowers of Virtue (comedy), first produced on Broadway at Royale Theatre, February 5, 1942.
- Story for Strangers (comedy), first produced on Broadway at Royale Theatre, September 21, 1948.
- Hunter's Moon, first produced in London at the Winter Garden Theatre, February 26, 1958.
- The Portable Yenberry, produced at Purdue University Workshop, May 24, 1961.
- Whispers, 1920.
- Exit Smiling, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1926.
- The Bridegroom, The Suitor, and The Uncle (film shorts), 1929.
- The Unemployed Ghost (film short), 1931.
- The Cradle Song, Paramount, 1933.
- The Little Duchess (film short), 1934.
- (With others) Captains Courageous, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1934.
- I Married a Witch, Paramount, 1936.
- Crowded Paradise, Tudor, 1956.
Author of radio plays The Mole on Lincoln's Cheek, 1941; author of lyrics for The Lady of Luzon, 1914, and Follow the Girl, 1915. With others, author of Webster's Poker Book, 1925. Contributor to magazines, including New Yorker, Collier's, Life, Saturday Review, and Reader's Digest.
A film adaptation of Connelly's play The Green Pastures was produced by Warner Bros. in 1936.
In a Dictionary of Literary Biography article, Marc Connelly was described as "a central but not pivotal figure of twentieth- century American theatre: a man of enormous popularity but little lasting influence." The article writer, Ward W. Briggs, Jr., went on to characterize Connelly as a man "of considerable instinctive talent but scant genius, of grand ideas but slight thought." Because he wrote and directed plays primarily in the 1920s and 1930s, and because most of those works were too idiosyncratic of their time to become classics, Connelly was perhaps best-known for just one stage work: a Pulitzer Prize-winning musical with the lengthy title of The Green Pastures: A Fable Suggested by Roark Bradford's Southern Sketches "Ol' Man Adam an' His Chillun." In this piece Connelly presented a rarity of its time, a mainstream entertainment concerning a black interpretation of the Gospels, and starring an all-black cast.
The Green Pastures is "structured in two parts," according to Briggs. "The theme throughout is that man eternally sins and is either punished or renounced by God. The play turns on the recognition by the protagonist, De Lawd, that man not only sins but also suffers and is ennobled by that suffering, for that is how he learns." In the study Marc Connelly author Peter T. Nolan remarked that what distinguishes the play "is its scope.... Even by current standards of criticism, [The Green Pastures] holds a position as one of the important plays in American drama; but it is the only one of Connelly's plays that does."
As a dramatist Connelly worked steadily and gained respect from his peers. But in his offstage life, the writer was as well-known for his involvement in the Algonquin Round Table, a now-legendary daily gathering of great New York-based wits and thinkers, founded in the 1920s. Among his Round Table cronies, Connelly counted as friends editor Harold Ross, critic Alexander Woollcott, satirist Dorothy Parker, and playwright George S. Kaufman. It was with Kaufman that Connelly enhanced his own career, collaborating with the better-known playwright on a number of comedies and musicals that characterized the carefree attitudes of pre-Depression America.
On the occasion of Connelly's death at age 90, just weeks after he had received a certificate of appreciation from New York City Mayor Ed Koch, playwright/director Garson Kanin delivered a eulogy reprinted in the Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook: 1980. "Marc simply loved playwriting and plays--particularly his own. Everything he wrote astonished and surprised him. He was delighted at what ran down his sleeve every day and he wanted to share that joy." Kanin concluded that Connelly, "playwright, journalist, humorist, memoirist, director, actor, screenwriter, wit, gentleman, and all-around jolly good fellow,... will never be replaced because he is irreplaceable."
FURTHER READINGS ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
- Connelly, Marc, Voices Off-Stage: A Book of Memoirs, Holt, 1968.
- Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 7, Gale, 1977.
- Dictionary of Literary Biography, Gale, Volume 7: Twentieth-Century American Dramatists, 1981.
- Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook: 1980, Gale, 1981.
- Nolan, Peter T., Marc Connelly, Twayne, 1969.
- American Heritage, February, 1970.
- Chicago Tribune, December 23, 1980.
- London Times, December 23, 1980.
- Nation, November 14, 1934.
- Newsweek, January 5, 1981.
- New York Times, October 3, 1968, December 21, 1980.
- Publishers Weekly, January 9, 1981.
- Saturday Review, April 7, 1951.
- Time, January 12, 1981.
- Washington Post, December 23, 1980.*