Alexander Humphreys Woollcott

Definition

Theater

  • (1887 - 1943) US drama critic, who was portrayed as SheridanWhiteside in the 1939 comedy The Man Who Came to Dinner.Woollcott went on to star in the part himself and also appeared in S. N.Behrman's comedies Brief Moment (1932) and Wine of Choice (1938).He helped write two plays himself, collaborating with George S. Kaufman andMoss Hart on The Channel Road (1929) and The Dark Tower (1932).

    Woollcott wrote for The New York Times, The New York Herald,The Sun, and The New York World, before retiring to broadcast,write for magazines, and lecture. His books include a biography of MinnieFiske (1917) and The Story of Irving Berlin (1925).

    Although he was an accomplished writer with engaging wit, his theatercriticism was sometimes surprisingly naive. Tallulah Bankhead said "Tohim the acting nobility was confined to Minnie Maddern Fiske and Harpo Marx".Since he valued players more than plays, he had difficulty analysing complexworks, leading him to call Eugene O'Neill's contributions "worthless".

    Woollcott's scathing notice of their French farce Taking Chances,provoked the Shubert management to attempt to ban him from their Broadwaytheaters. Although The New York Times won an injunction restraining theShuberts from barring him, they subsequently had this reversed. When the paperrefused to accept the Shuberts' advertising, they backed down and sent thecritic a box of cigars. "The whole thing went up in smoke," notedWoollcott.

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