Maxwell Anderson



  • (1888 - 1959) The prolific US playwright, whose works includedhistorical plays, verse dramas, comedies, and musicals. He workedbriefly as a journalist before enjoying his first stage success withWhat Price Glory (1924; with Laurence Stallings), about a WorldWar I soldier. Night Over Taos (1932) was the first productionby the Group Theatre in New York. In 1933 Anderson scoreda double triumph with Both Your Houses, a satire on politicalcorruption that won a Pulitzer Prize, and Mary of Scotland,in which Mary was played by Helen Hayes. The latter was the firstof his poetic historical dramas, the others being Elizabeth theQueen (1930) and Anne of the Thousand Days (1948).

    Some of Anderson's best plays dealt with contemporary subjects:these included Winterset (1935), about the Sacco-Vanzetti murdercase of the 1920s, and High Tor (1936), a satire on materialism.With the composer Kurt Weill he wrote the musicals KnickerbockerHoliday (1938) and Lost in the Stars (1949).

    In 1946 the then-unknown Marlon Brando appeared in Anderson'sTruckline Café, about a returning GI who murders hiswife. Harold Clurman, the director, was mystified by the actor: "Heread poorly, his head sunk low on his chest as if he feared to divulgeanything. He mumbled for days." Both Anderson's wife and agentwanted Brando fired, but the playwright told his director to perseverewith him. One day, Clurman made him shout his lines in the empty theaterwhile climbing a rope hanging from a gridiron. Brando became furiousduring the session but thereafter spoke up.