I Can Get It for You Wholesale, 1937
What’s in It for Me?, 1938
I’ll Never Go There Anymore, 1941
The Lights Around the Shore, 1943
Too Early to Tell, 1946
The Price Is Right, 1949
The Hand of the Hunter, 1951
Give Me Your Love, 1952
The Third Angel, 1953
Your Daughter Iris, 1955
The Enemy Camp, 1958
Before You Go, 1960
The Sound of Bow Bells, 1962
Word of Mouth, 1964
Other People’s Money, 1967
The Center of the Action, 1969
Fourth Street East: A Novel of How It Was, 1970
Last Respects, 1972
Tiffany Street, 1974
The Temple, 1975
A Family Fortune; 1978
The Horse That Could Whistle “Dixie,” and Other Stories, 1939
The Captain’s Tiger, 1947
A Dime a Throw, 1957
My Father Sits in the Dark, and Other Selected Stories, 1961
Where the Sun Never Sets, and Other Stories, 1964
The Death of Dickie Draper, and Nine Other Stories, 1965
Fiorello!, pr. 1959 (libretto with George Abbott; music and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock)
Tenderloin, pr. 1960 (libretto with Abbott; music and lyrics by Harnick and Bock)
I Can Get It for You Wholesale, pr. 1962 (libretto, music by Harold Rome; adaptation of his novel)
Cool Off!, pr. 1964 (libretto; music by Howard Blackman)
Pousse-Café, pr. 1966 (libretto; music by Duke Ellington)
Ivory Tower, pr. 1968 (with James Yaffe)
The Mother Lover, pr. 1969
Asterisk! A Comedy of Terrors, pr., pb. 1969
The Damned Don’t Cry, 1950 (with Harold Medford)
The Eddie Cantor Story, 1953 (with Ted Sherdeman and Sidney Skolsky)
The Reporter, 1964 (series)
Letter of Credit, 1940 (travel)
Back Talk, 1963 (essays)
Praying for Rain, 1986 (memoir)
A Somerset Maugham Sampler, 1943
Traveler’s Cheque, 1954
The First College Bowl Question Book, 1961 (with others)
Of Jewish background, Jerome Weidman (WID-muhn) was the son of Joseph and Annie (Falkovitz) Weidman. His father was an Austrian immigrant; his mother was from Hungary. Because his parents knew hardly any English, Weidman did not speak that language fluently until he was five years old. He married Elizabeth Ann Payne, a writer, in 1943. Among their children are Jeffrey and John Whitney.
Weidman attended City College (now City College of the City University of New York) from 1931 to 1933, Washington Square College from 1933 to 1934, and New York University Law School from 1934 to 1937. His military and wartime service included work in the U.S. Office of War Information from 1942 to 1945. Before becoming a full-time writer, he worked at various jobs such as soda jerk, newsboy, stenographer, mail clerk, and accountant. He was a member of the Authors Guild and the Dramatists Guild of the Authors League of America, of which he was president from 1969 to 1974, and the Writers Guild of America, East.
When Weidman graduated from high school, the Great Depression was at its height. He read for entertainment and held a job in the New York City garment district for a weekly salary of eleven dollars. His writing career was spurred by ten dollars he received when a magazine accepted a short story he wrote and submitted. His first novel, I Can Get It for You Wholesale, was written as a result of a contest he entered; he wrote a chapter each night. The novel portrays its Jewish protagonist as ruthless and traces his path from upstart to ambitious manufacturer who is unable to find happiness in life. Although the novel did not win the contest, it was eventually published, and critical response was very positive. The book was successful enough that Weidman followed up with a sequel, What’s in It for Me? The sequel continues to depict the protagonist as a man unable to love, a despicable human being, lacking any sensibilities.
With the success of his first novel, Weidman quit law school at age twenty-four to become a full-time writer. He was compared by critics to writers such as Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner. Weidman was ultimately prolific. During his literary career, he produced a vast body of works, including novels, short stories, dramas, screenplays, and even a television series. He proved himself a disciplined and skilled storyteller and observer of modern life and Jewish immigrant culture in the United States. In many of his works, ambitious characters are successful at first but are defeated in the end because they sacrifice their morality and integrity to gain financial rewards. Some of his characters fail to differentiate between ephemeral material happiness and real human sensibilities. All these concerns reflect Weidman’s personal experience of the Depression years and the lack of material wealth around him during his youth. Weidman portrayed these dislocations in human greed and desire with meticulous accuracy.
Along with his ethnic roots and childhood experiences, Weidman’s travels in North America, the Mediterranean region, and England inspired him and provided material for his works, which have been translated into many languages. Interestingly, his parents read his books in Hebrew because of their lack of English comprehension. Weidman earned a number of prestigious awards such as the Pulitzer Prize in drama, the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, and the Tony Award in 1960 for the musical play Fiorello!, which ran for 795 nights on Broadway. A musical version of I Can Get It for You Wholesale ran for 300 nights and was later made into a feature-length film in 1951.
Not all critics were kind to Weidman’s works, and the author took the negative reviews seriously. He was, in fact, somewhat hurt and surprised by them, because he thought he worked hard as a storyteller and had something serious to contribute to the literary world and to his readers. His response was to continue writing.
As a first-generation Jewish American writer, Weidman never discounted his roots and humble background, always finding ways to work autobiographical details into his books. His reminiscences include those of seeking cultural identity, the generation gap, stereotypes in the Gentile world, and getting away from the urban ghetto. His stories reflect this unique American immigrant experience with a Yiddish flare and a cadenced English dialogue. As a writer, he also had a special talent for drawing material from Eastern European tales and legends, especially in his short stories. He also was a keen observer of mundane details, turning them from banalities to insightful and interesting facets of everyday life in his stories. Though his literary fame wavered from time to time during his fifty-year career, Weidman retained his audience with a prolific body of works because he was good at storytelling. His works are still read widely and continue to be studied seriously.