Authors: Joshua Logan

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American playwright and director

Author Works

Drama:

Higher and Higher, pr. 1940 (with Gladys Hurlbut)

Mister Roberts, pr. 1948 (adaptation of Thomas Heggen's novel; with Heggen)

South Pacific, pr. 1949 (adaptation of James Michener's Tales of the South Pacific; with Oscar Hammerstein II)

The Wisteria Trees, pr. 1950 (adaptation of Anton Chekhov's play The Cherry Orchard)

Wish You Were Here, pr. 1952 (with Arthur Kober)

Fanny, pr. 1954 (adaptation of Marcel Pagnol's play; with S. N. Behrman)

Miss Moffat, pr. 1974 (with Emlyn Williams)

Rip Van Winkle, pr. 1976

Screenplays:

Mister Roberts, 1955 (adaptation of his play; with Frank Nugent);

Ensign Pulver, 1964 (adaptation of his play Mister Roberts; with Peter S. Feibleman)

Nonfiction:

Josh: My Up and Down, In and Out Life, 1976

Movie Stars, Real People, and Me, 1978

Biography

Joshua Lockwood Logan, Jr., was a leading Broadway playwright and director of the mid-twentieth century. He was the son of Susan McHenry Nabors and Joshua Lockwood Logan, Sr. His father committed suicide when the boy was three, although Logan did not learn this until forty years later. Logan, his mother, and younger sister, Mary Lee, then moved to his maternal grandparents’ home in Mansfield, Louisiana, which Logan used forty years later as the setting for his play The Wisteria Trees.{$I[A]Logan, Joshua}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Logan, Joshua}{$I[tim]1908;Logan, Joshua}

In 1917, his mother married Colonel Howard Noble, an instructor at Culver Military Academy in Indiana, and the whole family went to live there. Logan attended the academy and then went to Princeton University, where he was active in the Triangle Club, Princeton’s leading theater group, and the Theatre Intime. He met Bretaigne Windust, later the director of Howard Lindsay’s Life with Father (1939), Joseph Kesselring’s Arsenic and Old Lace (1941), and E. Y. Harburg and Fred Saidy’s Finian’s Rainbow (1947). After Logan’s freshman year, Windust invited him to join the University Players, a theater group in Falmouth, Massachusetts, founded by Windust and Charles Crane Leatherbee. Among his fellow players were Henry Fonda, whom Logan later directed in Mister Roberts, and Logan’s future wife Barbara O’Neill.

Logan skipped his final semester in 1931 to accompany Leatherbee to Russia, where they observed the famous acting teacher Constantin Stanislavsky direct opera and attended a production of Anton Chekhov’s Vishnyovy sad (pr., pb. 1904; The Cherry Orchard, 1908), which included some of the original cast. This experience profoundly impacted Logan, especially when Stanislavsky told them that he had moved beyond the acting method that bears his name.

After Logan returned to the United States, he started his professional theater career. He made his Broadway debut as an actor in Carry Nation in 1932. He also worked as a casting director, stage manager, box office clerk, and uncredited director. His debut as a credited director took place in 1935 with the play To See Ourselves.

In 1938, he directed I Married an Angel, his first collaboration with the composer-lyricist team of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, and received his first writing credit for Higher and Higher in 1940. Logan was hired only to direct, but he made so many contributions to the script that author Gladys Hurlbut insisted that he be given coauthor credit. That year, Logan married Barbara O’Neill, who had played Scarlett O’Hara’s mother in the film Gone with the Wind (1939). They divorced in 1942. It was during this time that he was first diagnosed as manic-depressive and had to spend four months in a mental hospital. He had another bout with depression in 1953 but in 1969 found that the drug lithium could control it.

Logan recovered sufficiently to direct By Jupiter, the last Rodgers-Hart musical, in 1942. Then the Army drafted him to serve in World War II. His first assignment was to help with songwriter Irving Berlin’s This Is the Army (1942), a benefit for the Army Emergency Relief Fund. He later transferred to the Air Corps and attended Officer Candidate School. He served in the European theater of operations, first as an intelligence officer and later in public relations before transferring to Special Services, which was responsible for entertaining the troops. He used his experience in both Mister Roberts and South Pacific. After Logan’s discharge, he directed Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun (1946). He married actress Nedda Harrigan, whom he had directed in a revival of Charley’s Aunt (1940) and with whom he adopted two children, Susan and Thomas.

Although Thomas Heggen and author Max Schulman had already written a stage adaptation of Heggen’s 1947 novel Mister Roberts, producer Leland Hayward rejected it and asked Heggen to start over from scratch. Heggen wrote five scenes and sent them to Logan, whom Hayward had engaged to direct. Logan judged that while the dialogue was hilarious, it lacked dramatic tension. He invited Heggen to his home in Connecticut, where they spent the following three months writing the play, for which they won the Tony Award.

At Logan’s suggestion, Rodgers and his new songwriting partner, Oscar Hammerstein II, decided to adapt James Michener’s short-story collection Tales of the South Pacific (1947) as a musical and hired Logan to direct. Hammerstein found he had difficulty writing the script and invited Logan to visit him at his farm in Pennsylvania. Logan had planned to visit for three days but stayed for the ten days it took them to finish South Pacific. Hammerstein and Logan won the Tony Award for best libretto and, along with Rodgers, a Pulitzer Prize.

When actress Helen Hayes confided to Logan that she had always wanted to appear in The Cherry Orchard, he had the idea of transplanting the play to the American South and wrote The Wisteria Trees. It was only a modest success, even with Hayes in the starring role, so Logan went back to collaborating and did not write a play by himself until Rip Van Winkle, twenty-six years later. The latter play was only a modest success as well.

Because Logan’s efforts as a solo playwright were less successful than his directing and coauthorships, he received little recognition as a writer. When the Pulitzer Prizes for 1949 were first announced, for instance, the press release neglected to mention him as coauthor of South Pacific. His collaborators, especially Rodgers and Hammerstein, still overshadow Logan.

BibliographyFordin, Hugh. Getting to Know Him: A Biography of Oscar Hammerstein II. New York: Random House, 1977. Chapter 8 covers South Pacific.Leggett, John. Ross and Tom: Two American Tragedies. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1974. The second half of this book is a biography of Thomas Heggen. Chapters 19 to 21 describe the stage version of Mister Roberts.Nolan, Frederick. Lorenz Hart: A Poet on Broadway. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. Describes Logan’s direction of three Lorenz Hart musicals, including Higher and Higher, for which Logan received coauthor credit.
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