“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago, May 25, 1922, Brook Farm, 845 North Salem Road, Ridgefield, Connecticut

Just a few days ago, Irish-American playwright Eugene O’Neill, 33, was awarded his second Pulitzer Prize for Drama, for Anna Christie which premiered last year. His first Pulitzer was for his first full-length play staged on Broadway, Beyond the Horizon, back in 1920. In addition to the awards, both plays received good reviews from the New York Times drama critic, Alexander Woollcott, 35, who told theatregoers that Anna Christie is

a singularly engrossing play…[that you] really ought to see.”

Other critics agreed.

Pauline Lord in Anna Christie

His most recent, The Hairy Ape, started out with his Greenwich Village theatre troupe The Provincetown Players, but has just been transferred to the Plymouth Theater on Broadway. With the playwright’s name in lights on the marquee, instead of any actors’ names. Quite a tribute.

Although Woollcott likes the Hairy Ape as well, calling it “vital and interesting and teeming with life,” the New York Police Department has deemed the play “obscene, indecent, impure.” Because of its themes of working class rebellion, the mayor wants to shut it down to avoid labor riots. Really.

His success has enabled O’Neill and his wife, English writer Agnes Boulton, 28, and their son Shane, 3, to move to this 31-acre Connecticut country house, with a library, a sun-room, four master bedrooms and servants’ quarters. As well as an Irish wolfhound Eugene has named Finn MacCool.

Eugene O’Neill with his dog and his farm  

He is also $40,000 in debt.

Today he is writing to a friend,

Yes, I seem to be becoming the [Pulitzer] Prize Pup of Playwrights—the Hot Dog of the Drama. When the Police Department isn’t pinning the Obscenity Medal on my Hairy Ape chest, why, then it’s Columbia [University] adorning the brazen bosom of Anna with the Cross of Purity. I begin to feel that there is either something all wrong with me or something all right…’It’s a mad world, my masters.’”

“Such Friends”:  100 Years Ago… is the basis for the series, “Such Friends”:  The Literary 1920s. Volumes I and II covering 1920 and 1921 are available as signed copies at Riverstone Books in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, PA, and also in print and e-book formats on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. For more information, email me at kaydee@gypsyteacher.com.

Next month I will be talking about the Stein family salons in Paris before and after The Great War at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Carnegie-Mellon University.

Manager as Muse, about Scribner’s editor Maxwell Perkins’ relationships with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe, is also available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk in both print and e-book versions.

If you want to walk with me through Bloomsbury, you can download my audio walking tour, “Such Friends”:  Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group.

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