Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman’s Once in a Lifetime was one of the pair’s best collaborations, the first of eight they wrote together in the 1930s. Inspired by the rise of the talkies—movies with sound—and the excess of Hollywood, the play is a wisecracking satire, though not particularly mean or bitter. Hart had originally written the play in 1929. Kaufman, a more established comic playwright, collaborated with Hart on several rewrites in late 1929 and early 1930. After several problematic outof- town tryouts, Once in a Lifetime opened on September 24, 1930, at the Music Box in New York City. It ran for 406 performances and won the Roi Cooper Megrue Prize for comedy in 1930. The play was very popular with both critics and audiences, giving them something to think about other than the growing economic depression. Since its original production, Once in a Lifetime was revived regularly through years, both on and off Broadway, as well as regionally and in Europe. Subsequent critics saw the play as a product of its time, but many believed its humor stood up well. The excesses of Hollywood were still contemporary, though some of the plays’ references were dated. As the New York Times’ Howard Taubman wrote in a 1962 review ‘‘Once in a Lifetime is still pertinent and funny. The film industry has been through more upheavals than an old-time banana republic, but the more it changes the more some of its foibles remain the same.’’
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