the most important American playwrights of the early 20th century,
Maxwell Anderson was born in Atlantic, Pennsylvania, in 1888.
He graduated from the University of North Dakota in 1911 and
received his M.A. from Stanford University in 1914. He taught
briefly, then turned to journalism, working with such newspapers
as the Grand Forks Herald, San Francisco Chronicle,
and San Francisco Bulletin. Later, he was an editorial
writer for the New Republic, the New York Globe,
and the New York World.
When Anderson wrote his first play, White Desert, he
wrote it in verse because he was weary of "plays in prose
that never lifted from the ground." The play failed, however,
and Anderson temporarily abandoned his dream of bringing tragic
poetry to the American stage. He focused his attention instead
on What Price Glory?, a World War I comedy which he was
co-authoring with Laurence Stallings and which proved to be a
solid hit. He followed this first success with another successful
play, Saturday's Children (1927), a drama which examines
the marital problems of a young couple. Although he had returned
to his true love tragedy, he had still not gathered enough confidence
to attempt another play in verse. Then he had an epiphany--poetic
tragedy had never successfully written about its own place and
time! He realized that there is not one tragedy by Aeschylus,
or Racine which did not have the advantage
of a setting either far away or long ago. Keeping this in mind,
he soon composed two very successful dramas in verse--Elizabeth
the Queen (1930) and Mary of Scotland (1933). His
crowning achievement, however, was still to come.
In 1935, Anderson broke his newly discovered rule and composed
Winterset, a poetic tragedy based on a true story and
set in contemporary America. Unlike his earlier attempt at contemporary
verse drama, Winterset was a huge success and won for
Anderson the very first New York Drama Critics Circle Award (1935).
The next year, Anderson again took the award for High Tor
(1936). Other plays include Knickerbocker Holiday (1938),
Key Largo (1939), Eve of St. Mark (1942), Joan
of Lorraine (1946), Lost in the Stars (1949), Bad
Seed (1954), and Both Your Houses (1933) for which
Anderson was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.
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