George S. Kaufman

George S. Kaufman
One of the most successful playwrights of the period, George S. Kaufman suffered through each opening night, looking, according to Alexander Woollcott, "a little like the late Marie Antoinette in the tumbrel" until the ordeal was over. Convinced that his next venture would fail, Kaufman remained drama editor at the New York Times despite a string of 1920s Broadway successes. Collaborating with Marc Connelly, Moss Hart, Edna Ferber, and others, Kaufman produced more than forty plays, including such classics as The Royal Family, Animal Crackers, The Man Who Came to Dinner, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning You Can't Take It with You.

The Algonquin Round Table's verbal games honed Kaufman's wit for the pointed one-liners that sparkled in his comedies. A press agent once asked Kaufman, still a drama editor, how to get his leading lady mentioned in the newspaper. "Shoot her," came the instant rejoinder. Kaufman had no patience for the accusations of log-rolling and self-promotion directed against the group. "Sure there was back-scratching," he once said. "I've still got the scars on my back to prove it."

George S. Kaufman 1880-1961
William Auerbach-Levy (1889-1964)
Ink on paper, circa 1925-1930
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

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