Authors: Jerome Lawrence

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American playwright

Author Works

Drama:

Laugh, God!, pb. 1939

U.S.S. Middletown, pb. 1944 (with Hector Chevigny and Anne Anthony)

Tomorrow, pb. 1944 (with Budd Schulberg)

Inside a Kid’s Head, pb. 1945 (radio play; with Robert E. Lee)

Look, Ma, I’m Dancin’, pr. 1948 (with Lee; music by Hugh Martin, conceived by Jerome Robbins)

The Crocodile Smile, pr. 1952 (with Lee; as The Laugh Maker), revised pr. 1961 (as Turn on the Night), revised pr. 1970 (with Lee)

Inherit the Wind, pr., pb. 1955 (with Lee)

Shangri-La, pr., pb. 1956 (with Lee and James Hilton; music by Harry Warren; adaptation of Hilton’s novel Lost Horizon)

Auntie Mame, pr. 1956 (with Lee; adaptation of Patrick Dennis’s novel), revised pr. 1966 (as Mame; music and lyrics by Jerry Herman)

The Gang’s All Here, pr. 1959 (with Lee)

Only in America, pr. 1959 (with Lee; adaptation of Harry Golden’s work)

A Call on Kuprin, pr. 1961 (with Lee; adaptation of Maurice Edelman’s novel)

Sparks Fly Upward, pr. 1965 (with Lee; as Diamond Orchid), revised pr. 1967

Live Spelled Backwards, pr. 1966

Dear World, pr. 1969 (with Lee; music and lyrics by Jerry Herman; adaptation of Jean Giraudoux’s play The Madwoman of Chaillot)

The Incomparable Max, pr. 1969 (with Lee)

The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail, pr., pb. 1970 (with Lee)

Jabberwock: Improbabilities Lived and Imagined by James Thurber in the Fictional City of Columbus, Ohio, pr. 1972 (with Lee)

First Monday in October, pr. 1975 (with Lee)

Whisper in the Mind, pr. 1990 (with Lee and Norman Cousins)

Screenplays:

My Love Affair with the Human Race, 1962 (with Robert E. Lee)

The New Yorkers, 1963 (with Lee)

Joyous Season, 1964 (with Lee)

The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail, 1972 (with Lee; adaptation of their play)

First Monday in October, 1982 (with Lee; adaptation of their play)

Teleplays:

The Unexpected, 1951 (series; with Robert E. Lee)

Favorite Story, 1952-1953 (with Lee)

Song of Norway, 1957 (with Lee)

West Point, 1958 (with Lee)

Lincoln, the Unwilling Warrior, 1975

Actor, 1978 (with Lee; music by Billy Goldenburg)

Radio Plays:

Junior Theatre of the Air, 1938 (series)

Under Western Skies, 1939 (series)

Nightcap Yarns, 1939, 1940 (series)

Stories from Life, 1939, 1940 (series)

Man About Hollywood, 1940 (series)

Hollywood Showcase, 1940, 1941 (series)

Columbia Workshop, 1941- 1942 (series; with Robert E. Lee)

A Date with Judy, 1941, 1942 (series)

They Live Forever, 1942 (series)

Armed Forces Radio Service Programs, 1942-1945 (with Lee)

The World We’re Fighting For, 1943 (series; with Lee)

Everything for the Boys, 1944 (series)

Request Performance, 1945-1946 (series; with Lee)

Screen Guild Theatre, 1946 (series; with Lee)

Favorite Story, 1946-1949 (series; with Lee)

Frank Sinatra Show, 1947 (with Lee)

Dinah Shore Program, 1948 (with Lee)

The Railroad Hour, 1948-1954 (with Lee)

Young Love, 1949-1950 (series; with Lee)

United Nations Broadcasts, 1949-1950 (with Lee)

Halls of Ivy, 1950-1951 (series; with Lee)

Hallmark Playhouse, 1950-1951 (series; with Lee)

Charles Boyer Show, 1951 (with Lee)

Nonfiction:

Actor: The Life and Times of Paul Muni, 1974

Children’s/Young Adult Literature:

Oscar the Ostrich, 1940 (as Jerome Schwartz)

Edited Text:

Off Mike: Radio Writing by the Nation’s Top Radio Writers, 1944

Biography

Jerome Lawrence Schwartz, with his partner, Robert E. Lee, was instrumental in the commercial, intellectual, and public development of American theater in the mid-twentieth century. His father, Samuel Schwartz, owned a printing company, and his mother, Sarah (Rogen) Schwartz, was a poet. Propelled by the family’s literary affiliations, Lawrence’s interest in drama bloomed in his high school and college days, when he acted in and directed school and summer theater productions. As a teenager, he studied writing with Eugene C. Davis and later, at Ohio State University, with Harlan Hatcher, Herman Miller, and Robert Newdick.{$I[A]Lawrence, Jerome}{$S[A]Schwartz, Jerome Lawrence;Lawrence, Jerome}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Lawrence, Jerome}{$I[tim]1915;Lawrence, Jerome}

Lawrence began writing prizewinning plays at Ohio State (from which he graduated cum laude), but it was his writing experience during World War II that shaped his creative abilities and social outlook. Staff Sergeant Lawrence served as a consultant to the secretary of war and later as Army correspondent in North Africa and Italy. In addition to serving in the military, Lawrence worked as a journalist, reporter, and telegraph editor of small Ohio daily newspapers and as a continuity editor at radio station KMPC in Beverly Hills. While writing for CBS radio, he met fellow Ohioan Robert E. Lee in Manhattan in January, 1942. Over lunch the next week, they began their first collaboration, Inside a Kid’s Head, a radio play. The two men established an office in Los Angeles within a few months, joined the military that summer, and produced programs for the Armed Forces Radio Service.

Lawrence and Lee’s best-known collaborations are Inherit the Wind and The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail. These plays reflect Lawrence’s lifelong concern with progress and the right to intellectual freedoms. The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail, first produced by the American Playwrights Theater on April 21, 1970, links Henry David Thoreau’s refusal on moral principles to pay his poll tax with contemporary issues such as the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War. The play makes it clear, as does Inherit the Wind, that the true power and integrity of a society is not to be found in commonly held truisms and absolute faith in government but in the minds of a wise minority, willing to face prison or even death, rather than give in to the herd mentality of the crowd, where truth rarely exists. As Thoreau’s “Essay on Civil Disobedience” will be a document of social relevance for the ages, so will The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail speak to generations to come. For his independent thinking and prolific and compelling writing, Lawrence is highly regarded, and critics have called his Actor: The Life and Times of Paul Muni, one of the best theater biographies of the twentieth century.

Lawrence, with his partner, Lee, won many of the most important and prestigious awards in the theater, including the Donaldson Award, the Moss Hart Award for Plays of A Free World, a U.S. State Department medal, an Ohio State University Centennial Medal, a Pegasus Award, the Ohio Governor’s Award, a Cleveland Playhouse Plaque, the Ohioana Award, two Peabody Awards for Distinguished Achievement in broadcasting, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Theater Association. His and Lee’s plays have been adapted as films and have been translated into thirty-two languages. Lawrence received honorary doctorates from Villanova University, the College of Wooster, Fairleigh Dickinson University, and Ohio State University. Lawrence served on the boards of directors of the American Conservatory Theater, the National Repertory Theater, the Dramatists’ Guild, and the Writers Guild of America. He was a visiting professor at Ohio State and a master playwright at New York University, Baylor University, and the Salzburg Seminar in American Studies and an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California. In 1990 he was inducted into the National Theater Hall of Fame, and he continued to work from his home in Malibu, California, into the twenty-first century.

BibliographyBryan, William Jennings. The Scopes Trial and “Inherit the Wind.” Dayton, Tenn.: William Jennings Bryan College, 1995. This volume presents background on the fundamentalist argument, William Jennings Bryan, and John Scopes and the criticism of Lawrence and Robert E. Lee’s interpretation of events in their play.Winchester, Mark D. “Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee: A Classified Bibliography.” Studies in American Drama, 1945-Present 7 (1992): 88-160. An exhaustive bibliography of both authors.Woods, Alan. Selected Plays of Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1995. Includes a foreword by Norman Cousins and a bibliography.
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