Kaufman, George S.
Characteristically odd 1935 TNS from the Algonquin Round Table member to an actor friend seeking a part
Autograph ID: 4543
Condition: Very good, folds, tiny lower corner tip nicks, trivial age toning
Description: “(1889-1961) Jewish-American playwright, theater director & producer, humorist, and drama editor for “The New York Times” 1917-30. Kaufman’s 1918 Broadway debut was the melodrama “Someone in the House” (ran for only 32 performances during that year’s serious flu epidemic, when people were being advised to avoid crowds). From 1921-58, in every Broadway season there was play written or directed by Kaufman. He wrote only one play alone, “The Butter and Egg Man” (1925). With Marc Connelly he wrote “Merton of the Movies”, “Dulcy”, and “Beggar on Horseback”; with Ring Lardner he wrote”June Moon”; with Edna Ferber he wrote “The Royal Family”, “Dinner at Eight”, and “Stage Door”; with John P. Marquand he wrote a stage adaptation of Marquand’s novel “The Late George Apley”; and with Howard Teichmann he wrote “The Solid Gold Cadillac”. With Moss Hart, he wrote legendary comedies inc.: “The Man Who Came to Dinner”, and “You Can’t Take It With You”, his most-revived play, which won the 1937 Pulitzer Prize. Kaufman collaborated on many musical theatre projects, two of his most successful were crafted for the Marx Brothers: “The Cocoanuts”, written with Irving Berlin, and “Animal Crackers”, written with Morrie Ryskind, Bert Kalmar, and Harry Ruby. Humor derived from political situations was of particular interest to Kaufman. He collaborated on the hit musical “Of Thee I Sing” (1931 Pulitzer Prize, first musical so honored), and its sequel “Let ‘Em Eat Cake” and “Strike Up the Band”. Kaufman, with Moss Hart, wrote the book to “I’d Rather Be Right”, a musical starring George M. Cohan as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and co-wrote the 1935 comedy-drama “First Lady”. On the stage, he directed the original productions of “The Front Page” by Charles MacArthur and Ben Hecht, “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck,” My Sister Eileen” by Joseph Fields and Jerome Chodorov,” Romanoff and Juliet” by Peter Ustinov, and the Frank Loesser musical “Guys and Dolls”, for which he won the 1951 Best Director Tony Award. Kaufman also acted in the original production of his own “Once In A Lifetime”. Many of Kaufman’s plays were adapted into Hollywood films, and “You Can’t Take It With You” won the 1938 Best Picture Oscar. He also wrote the screenplay for “A Night at the Opera” for the Marx Brothers. Kaufman was also a prominent bridge player. Many of his humorous writings about bridge appeared in The New Yorker. In the 1920s, Kaufman was a member of the Algonquin Round Table, a circle of writers and show business people.
TNS on his 11 x 8 ½ light brown personal NYC letterhead, Deceber 3 1935, likely to actor Whitford Kane (with whom Kaufman had worked with in several radio productions, etc.), who apparently solicited Kaufman for a role. In full: “Like a shot, Whitford, is [likely, he meant “if”] there is anything…You don’t have to be Irish, do you? I’m not much of a writer of Irish plays.”
Whitford Kane (1881–1956) Irish-born stage, screen and radio character actor remembered for playing the First Gravedigger in numerous productions of “Hamlet” and by the students that attended his drama classes over nearly 6 decades. By the end of his career, his credits filled 3 columns in “Who’s Who in the Theatre.” He first took to the stage in Belfast in his early 20s and by 1910 was performing on the London stage. Kane’s 1st known Broadway performance came in 1912, the year he immigrated to America. He was be involved in some 56 Broadway productions over a near 53-year career that only ended due to illness at the end of his life. Kane typically played character roles often described as likable and benign. He played the First Gravedigger in 23 productions of Hamlet, supporting such actors as John Barrymore, Maurice Evans, Walter Hampden, William Mollison, Godfrey Tearle and Osmond Tearle. He appeared in several films over the 1930s and 40s, the most memorable probably being “The Adventures of Mark Twain” (1944) and “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir” (1947). His career extended into radio and the early years of television, including NBC’s 1939 teleplay, “The Streets of New York” and the 1954 Hallmark Hall of Fame production of “Richard II” adapted by Maurice Evans. Kane for a number of years trained actors for the stage at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago and later in New York with the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre. As director of the Goodman Theatre, Kane once awarded young Orson Welles a drama prize. Some years after, Kane became a key member of Welles’ Mercury Theatre Company. His final Broadway performance came early in 1956 in O’Casey’s drama, “Roses for You”, before closing his career that summer at the American Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, Connecticut. Struggling with cancer, he refused to cut back his commitments to preserve his record of only missing one performance in 50+ years of theatre work. Kane published his autobiography in 1931.”
Type: Typed Note Signed