Authors: Laurence Stallings

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American playwright and screenwriter

Author Works

Drama:

What Price Glory?, pr. 1924 (with Maxwell Anderson)

First Flight, pr. 1925 (with Anderson)

The Buccaneer, pr. 1925 (with Anderson)

Three American Plays, pb. 1926 (includes previous 3 titles)

Deep River, pr. 1926 (libretto and lyrics, music by W. F. Harling)

Rainbow, pr. 1928 (with Oscar Hammerstein II)

A Farewell to Arms, pr. 1930 (adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s novel)

Virginia, pr. 1937 (with Owen Davis)

The Streets Are Guarded, pr. 1944

Long Fiction:

Plumes, 1924

Short Fiction:

“Vale of Tears,” (in Men at War: The Best War Stories of All Time, 1942. Ernest Hemingway, editor)

Screenplays:

The Big Parade, 1925

What Price Glory?, 1926

Old Ironsides, 1926

Song of the West, 1930

Billy the Kid, 1930

Way for a Sailor, 1930

Big Executive, 1933

So Red the Rose, 1935

After Office Hours, 1935

Too Hot to Handle, 1938

Northwest Passage, 1940

Thunder Birds, 1942

The Jungle Book, 1942 (adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s book of stories)

Salome: Where She Danced, 1945

Christmas Eve, 1947

A Miracle Can Happen, 1948

Three Godfathers, 1948

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, 1949

The Sun Shines Bright, 1954

Nonfiction:

The First World War: A Photographic History, 1933

The Doughboys: A History of the A.E.F. 1917-1918, 1963

Biography

An important early influence on Laurence Tucker Stallings’s development was his mother, Aurora Brooks Stallings, who had a flair for music and literature. As a boy Stallings also developed a fascination for Civil War heroes. He earned his B.A. at Wake Forest University in North Carolina in 1916, and after a short stint as a reporter for the Atlanta Journal, he enlisted in the Marines in 1917 after the United States entered World War I. In France he saw action on the last day of battle at Belleau Wood. In the course of a charge he was seriously wounded, an injury that led to the amputation of one leg in 1922. (In 1963 the other leg also had to be amputated). Following the war he earned an M.A. at Georgetown University in 1922, after which he worked as a reporter first for The Washington Times and then for The New York World, where playwright Maxwell Anderson was also employed; in 1931 he joined The New York Sun. During these years in New York, Stallings met many literary figures of the day at the legendary Algonquin Hotel.{$I[AN]9810001603}{$I[A]Stallings, Laurence}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Stallings, Laurence}{$I[tim]1894;Stallings, Laurence}

Unquestionably Stallings’s first play, What Price Glory?, written in collaboration with Maxwell Anderson, became his most celebrated, even though he wrote only one of the three acts of this dramatic comedy. In this act, however, Stallings documents his response to his war experience. In the cellar of an embattled French town on the Western Front, two longtime friendly enemies, Captain Flagg and Sergeant Quirt, quarrel about the bloody business of war. Stallings mixes bawdy humor with a more subtle message about war’s futility. He also spiced up Anderson’s language with the kind of talk he had heard at the Front, profanities Broadway had not previously witnessed. With its language and its representation of men in the trenches, the play brought realism to the stage in an unprecedented manner.

The war continued to permeate both Stallings’s fiction and nonfiction, and that is where his strength lay. He was less successful when he attempted to write about other topics. Both First Flight, which tells the romantic adventures of a young President Andrew Jackson, and The Buccaneer, which is about a seventeenth century British adventurer, were failures and in fact brought about the end of Stallings’s collaboration with Maxwell Anderson. By contrast, The Big Parade, in which an officer wearily appreciates the brutal irony that in war some soldiers are chosen to live and some to die, was made into a successful film in 1925. The same is true of Stallings’s stage adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms (1929) in 1930. After What Price Glory?, however, Stallings’s career as a dramatist deteriorated, and as a novelist and short-story writer he remained essentially a single-topic author. He admitted: “Like a lot of writers, I had just one thing to say and I said it.”

In 1934 Stallings became editor of the Fox newsreel series Movietones. In that capacity he toured Ethiopia to film the Italian conquest of that country (1935-1936). In 1936 he was divorced from Helen Poteat, with whom he had had two daughters, and one year later he married Louise St. Leger Vance, with whom he had one son and one daughter. He moved to California and became a scriptwriter for various Hollywood film studios. During World War II he reenlisted in the U.S. Marines, was given a desk assignment in Washington, and finally retired as a lieutenant-colonel.

In 1963 Stallings’s expansion of an earlier essay titled “The War to End War” led to the publication of The Doughboys, which dealt with the military tactics and campaigns of the American Expeditionary Force in France during World War I. It was his last work.

Stallings died of a heart attack on February 28, 1968. His name will always be associated with the trauma and alienation suffered by individuals at war as well as with his biting portrayal of those fighting and dying in a world of political confusion and insanity, a world in which war is futile and incomprehensible.

BibliographyBrittain, Joan T. Laurence Stallings. Boston: Twayne, 1975. A brief and simple treatment of Stallings’s life and work. Includes a selected bibliography.Flexner, Eleanor. American Playwrights, 1918-1938: The Theatre Retreats from Reality. Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1969. Provides a good philosophical critique of What Price Glory?Krutch, Joseph Wood. The American Drama Since 1918: An Informal History. Rev. ed. New York: G. Braziller, 1957. Insightful in contrasting the romantic dash and vivid portrayal of emotions in What Price Glory? with the unexceptional qualities of First Flight and The Buccaneer, which both feature more routine kinds of cloak-and-dagger melodrama.
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