Odets, Clifford (Vol. 98)
Clifford Odets 1906–1963
American playwright, scriptwriter, and film director.
The following entry provides an overview of Odets's career. For further information on his life and works, see CLC, Volumes 2 and 28.
Odets was among the most prominent American playwrights of the 1930s. His early plays made him an overnight success for their realistic portrayal of Depression-era Americans searching for a place in modern society. Yet Odets never lived up to early critical acclaim that compared him favorably with Anton Chekhov and Eugene O'Neill, and he eventually settled into a financially successful, if lackluster, Hollywood scriptwriting career. His best plays retain historical significance for their portrayal of American—particularly Jewish-American—life after the Great Depression.
Odets was born in Philadelphia and grew up in a Jewish section of the Bronx in New York. His middle-class family had a prosperous business in the 1920s and was financially secure during the Depression. Odets quit high school and pursued poetry writing for a time, provoking his father's anger and disappointment, but soon decided to become a stage actor, to which his parents gave their qualified approval. He joined an amateur company and from 1925 to 1927 performed in radio plays, vaudeville acts, and summer stock productions. In 1930 he joined the Group Theatre, founded by Harold Clurman, Cheryl Crawford, and Lee Strasberg and intended to be both a training ground for actors and an idealistic collective that would attempt to change society through the onstage presentation of alternative values. Odets gained little recognition in the organization as an actor, but with the production of his first play, Waiting for Lefty (1935), a leftist work centered around a taxi drivers' union preparing to take a strike vote, he became an immediate sensation. Awake and Sing! (1935) also garnered wide popular acclaim; in retrospect, it is seen as perhaps Odets's most important work. After the failure of Paradise Lost (1935), which was attacked by many critics for its stock characters and an optimistic closing speech that seemed to have little justification in the body of the play, Odets accepted an offer from Paramount Studios to work as a scriptwriter. Refuting charges that he was "selling out," he contended that his earnings could help finance the Group Theatre. He returned to the Group Theatre for the production of his next play, Golden Boy (1937), which became the great-est commercial success of his career. The story of a young man trying to decide between careers as a violinist and a boxer, Golden Boy reflects Odets's love of music and anticipates his own idealistic turmoil as well. Following the failure of Odets's Clash by Night (1941), the Group Theatre disbanded, and Odets returned to Hollywood. Although he continued to work in theater and enjoyed another success with The Country Girl in 1950, his most acclaimed later works were the scripts for such films as None but the Lonely Heart and Humoresque. Odets alternately defended and spoke disparagingly of his film work, but he remained in Hollywood until his death.
Odets's career as a playwright is often divided by critics into three phases. The first and most important of these encompasses his efforts as a proletarian dramatist. Odets joined the Communist Party in 1934, and Waiting for Lefty, Awake and Sing!, and Paradise Lost were all written during his brief association with that group. These plays confirm leftist principles while declaring archaic the values of middle-class America. Odets structured Lefty so that the personal problems of the characters reflect the conflict between the union and the taxi company. Awake and Sing! examines the aspirations of a Jewish working-class family that has become disillusioned by an oppressive economic system. In Paradise Lost a middle-class businessman and his family are destroyed by a series of disasters. Each character in this play represents a particular middle-class value, and the catastrophes that befall them symbolize the fall of these values during the 1930s. These plays also reflect the communal influence of the Group Theatre on Odets's writing style as well as the Jewish street idiom with which he was familiar. The second phase of Odets's career includes plays involving personal relationships rather than direct social criticism. Golden Boy portrays the quest for success and the tragedies suffered as a result of faulty decisions and changes in values. Rocket to the Moon (1938), Night Music (1940), and Clash by Night (1941) are love stories that focus more on plot and dialogue than on characterization and social commentary. The final phase of Odets's career comprises semi-autobiographical dramas with psychological overtones. Social commentary is nearly nonexistent in these late works. In The Big Knife (1949) a movie actor is offered a multimillion-dollar contract but wants to escape the corruption of the film industry and return to the New York stage. The Country Girl is about an alcoholic actor who attempts a comeback on Broadway with the help of his wife, upon whom he is totally dependent. Odets's last play, The Flowering Peach (1954), is an adaptation of the biblical story of Noah. It is unusual in Odets's work for combining elements of comedy, philosophy, and theology, and came in the wake of his testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1952.
By the end of 1935, Odets's impressive first year as a playwright, many critics were praising him as a genius who spoke for the American people. Later critics, however, labeled Odets's early works as propaganda, with stereotypical characters and obvious messages. Recently critics have reappraised his plays, and his work is now appreciated for its dialogue—especially for its realistic capture of Jewish-American idioms—and for the author's belief in the nobility of humanity. The protagonists of Odets's plays are noted for relentlessly pursuing their dreams despite the often apparent futility of the quests. Once criticized for a lack of character development in his plays, Odets has won new praise for delivering emotional impact to his audiences while skillfully communicating the economic and spiritual insecurity of the American experience.
∗Waiting for Lefty (drama) 1935
∗Awake and Sing! (drama) 1935
∗Till the Day I Die (drama) 1935
∗Paradise Lost (drama) 1935
The General Died at Dawn [adaptor; from the novel by Charles G. Booth] (screenplay) 1935
∗Golden Boy (drama) 1937
∗Rocket to the Moon (drama) 1938
Night Music (drama) 1940
Clash by Night (drama) 1941
The Russian People [adaptor; from the play by Konstantin Simonov] (drama) 1942
None but the Lonely Heart [adaptor; from the novel by Richard Llewellyn; director] (screenplay) 1944
Deadline at Dawn [adaptor; from the novel by William Irish] (screenplay) 1946
Humoresque [adaptor, with Zachary Gold; from the short story by Fannie Hurst] (screenplay) 1946
The Big Knife (drama) 1949
The Country Girl (drama) 1950
The Flowering Peach (drama) 1954
Sweet Smell of Success [adaptor, with Ernest Lehman; from the novella Tell Me About It Tomorrow by Lehman] (screenplay) 1957
The Story on Page One [director and screenwriter] (screenplay) 1960
Wild in the Country [adaptor; from the novel The Lost Country by I. R. Salamanca] (screenplay) 1961
∗These works were collectively published as Six Plays of Clifford Odets (1939).
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SOURCE: "Poet of the Jewish Middle Class: Clifford Odets Voices Its Conflicts and Frustrations" in Commentary, Vol. 1, No. 7, May, 1946, pp. 17-22.
[Warshow was a Jewish-American editor, essayist, and film critic. In the following essay, he discusses Odets's Awake and Sing! and its realistic portrayal of the common Jewish-American experience of its time.]
Before migrating to America, all the ethnic groups of Yankee City possessed a family pattern of the patriarchal type in which the wife was subordinated to the husband and the children to the father. America has disrupted this pattern, increasing the wife's independence and making the children carriers of the new culture—a role that has brought them into open conflict with their parents. Among Jews these developments manifested themselves in their most extreme form.—"The Jews of Yankee City" (Commentary, January 1946)
The literary treatment of American Jewish life has always suffered from the psychological commitments of Jewish writers. Their motives are almost never pure: they must dignify the Jews, or plead for them, or take revenge upon them, and the picture they create is correspondingly distorted by romanticism or sentimentality or vulgarity. The romantic-sentimental picture, which endows the Jews with superior wisdom and an exaggerated spirituality, is typified in an earlier...
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SOURCE: "Odets at Center Stage," [Parts One and Two] in Theatre Arts, Vol. XLVII, Nos. 5 and 6, May and June, 1963, pp. 16-19, 74-76; pp. 28-30, 78-80.
[Mendelsohn is an American educator, author, and critic. In the following interview conducted shortly before Odets's death, Odets comments on a wide range of topics, including theater, his influences, and his career in Hollywood.]
[Mendelsohn:] I have a number of general questions and some specific ones; do you have any preference as to where we begin?
[Odets:] No, any way you choose to go is all right with me.
Well, let's begin with the idea that the playwright belongs to the theatre, rather than to the library.
Well, essentially there are two kinds of playwrights. Both can be excelling, but it would be necessary to make a distinction between the playwright who was essentially a theatre man and not a man of literature—not a man of the library, that is. If I talk about past and very great playwrights, it's obvious from the very style and form and cut and shape and pattern of their work that men like Moliere and Shakespeare were men of the theatre, not men of the library. And you see it on every page of their plays. They write with their feet solidly planted on the platform, and they write with a very knowing and frequently cunning theatrical knowledge, in the sense of what the audience...
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SOURCE: "Clifford Odets and the American Family," in Drama Survey, Vol. 3, No. 2, Fall, 1963, pp. 238-43.
[In the following essay, Mendelsohn traces a chronological progression in Odets's plays—from an early emphasis on anti-family social rebellion to a later integration and acceptance of the family into his plays' social landscapes. An editorial note states that this essay was in press when Odets died.]
The drama of the Left in the Thirties was notorious for its redundancy in themes. Certain ones, such as championship of the laboring man, attacks on the evils or decadence of American society, pacifism, cropped up with great regularity until they began to sound to critics and playgoers alike monotonous as a broken record. The more skilled of the serious dramatists were satisfied to deal with one or two of these themes, while many of the others seemed to feel that a play was worth while if it contained all three subjects. Only a few playwrights, Clifford Odets among them, are remembered today among the score of social protest dramatists who were irretrievably ensnared by the trap that should have been apparent.
Many playwrights of the depression decade viewed the American stage more as a forum than as a place of entertainment. In the early part of his career, Odets was among those who could not completely escape the urge to propagandize even when the subject of the propaganda is...
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SOURCE: "Odets: The Price of Success," in Commonweal, Vol. LXXVIII, No. 21, September 20, 1963, pp. 558-60.
[Hughes was an American playwright, editor, and critic. On the occasion of Odets's death, Hughes examines his reputation as a promising playwright who sold out to Hollywood.]
"What did I want? To be a great man? Get my picture on a postage stamp?"
—Clifford Odets, Paradise Lost
When Clifford Odets died on August 15 , there were the usual paeans, the tributes in obituary and gossip columns, on stages and in drama sections. It was yet another testimony to the observation Albert Camus had recorded in his Notebooks: "a writer's death makes us exaggerate the importance of his work." Yet, running through all the lines of praise and retrospective evaluation, through all the reminiscences, there was an undercurrent, sometimes implicit, sometimes expressed. The obit writer for the New York Times took a stab at it when he noted Odets' "failure to outgrow the adjective 'promising' … the harsh criticism from many friends as a classic case of the artist who had 'sold out' to Hollywood."
Both of the observations in the Times' obituary happen to be true. Odets had become a symbol of literary prostitution long before the accusation—if accusation it be—was valid. He had...
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SOURCE: "How a Playwright Triumphs," in Harper's Magazine, Vol. 233, No. 1396, September, 1966, pp. 64-70, 73-74.
[In the following essay, drawn from a September 1961 interview, Odets recounts his genesis and progression as a playwright, with particular focus on his early days with the Group Theatre under Lee Strasberg and Harold Clurman.]
The following monologue—by one of the best American playwrights of the century—was originally a dialogue. It is drawn from an interview in Hollywood with Clifford Odets by Arthur Wagner of the Department of Theatre at Tulane University. The interview took place over a two-day period in September 1961, two years before Mr. Odets' death.
I had always wanted as a kid to be both an actor and a writer. For a while I thought I would be a novelist, but when I became a professional actor, my mind naturally began to take the form of the play as a means of saying something. I wasn't sure I had anything to say, because some of the other things I wrote were quite dismal. But being an actor. I began to think in terms of three acts, divisions of acts, and scenes within the acts, and whatever technique I have has been unconsciously absorbed—almost through my skin—with all the kinds of acting I have done.
Before Awake and Sing! I wrote a whole very bad novel and a few short stories, all of which I...
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SOURCE: "Thinking about Odets," in The Columbia Forum, Vol. 4, No. 1, Winter, 1975, pp. 35-39.
[Weiner is a playwright and a former student and acquaintance of Odets. In the following essay, he uses his familiarity with Odets and his works to offer insight into Odets's controversial career and life.]
In the spring of 1960 I completed a draft of a play whose quality puzzled me. Not knowing quite what to do with it, I wrote a letter to Clifford Odets, asking if he'd be willing to read it. I had been one of twenty aspiring playwrights in a unique class given by Odets at the Actors Studio in 1951, but I hadn't been in touch with him in the almost nine years since the class disbanded. I addressed my letter to his agent in New York and the following week received a cheerful note from Beverly Hills. Odets was glad I was still writing plays, he had time on his hands because of a Hollywood strike, and if I'd care to send the script, he'd read it promptly. "Promptly" turned out to be a term of some elasticity, but after an exchange of letters and phone calls, he suggested I come to California for a day or two and hear what he had to say. He met me at the airport, insisted I stay at his home instead of a hotel, introduced me to his friends as "a playwright from New York" (I was then still unproduced), and the "day or two" became eleven fascinating days during which he discussed not only my play but his life. Our...
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SOURCE: "Odets, Miller and Communism," in CLA Journal, Vol. XIX, No. 4, June, 1976, pp. 484-93.
[In the following excerpt, Miller discusses Odets's Till the Day I Die and places it within the social and political contexts of its day.]
Between the time of the October Revolution and the Stalin-Hitler Pact, many European and American literati were attracted to communism. Some chose communism at a definite time in history because they had lost faith in democracy and they wanted to defeat fascism. When Hitler came to power in Germany, the Soviet Union felt threatened, and out of this uneasiness came "a Russian foreign policy based on support of collective security measures against aggression." Communist parties then adopted the Popular Front, whose purpose was to create political coalitions of all anti-fascist groups. The Communists continued to be effective and consistent opponents of the rising power of Nazi Germany.
The conversion to communism of men of letters, often people of unusual sensitivity, expressed feelings sometimes shared by the inarticulate masses who felt that Russia was on the side of the working class. The compelling attraction of "an active comradeship of struggle involving personal sacrifice and abolishing differences of class and race"—was often too great to be resisted.
An American man of letters who joined the Communist party and used his...
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SOURCE: "Odets University," in The Literary Review, Vol. 19, No. 4, Summer, 1976, pp. 470-75.
[Appel was an American novelist, short story writer, poet, and one-time student of Odets. In the following essay, he relates his personal experience with Odets and discusses Odets's role at the House Un-American Activities Committee Hearings in the 1950's.]
"Odets University" was my nickname for the playwrighting class Clifford Odets conducted for one memorable session in 1951 at the Actors Studio.
Everything was free. Tuition. Tickets to Broadway plays. Advice after class as well as free drinks in some nearby bar or at Odets' home in the East 60's. Quite a few of the "graduates" would see their plays produced—as Clifford Odets, president, dean and faculty had hoped—and with the cry of Author! Author! in effect be awarded their "degrees." William Gibson who had submitted a play on the life of the young Shakespeare (admission to "Odets University" depended on an approved script) would write Two for the See-Saw, and Louis Peterson would be acclaimed as an important playwright after the production of his Take a Giant Step. Leslie Wiener, Jack Levine, Jimmy McGee and four or five other students whose names skip me would make it to Broadway or Off-Broadway.
It so happened that I had written a play based on one of my novels and like a thousand—or were...
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SOURCE: "Recovering Odets' Paradise Lost," in Essays in Literature, Vol. 5, No. 2, Fall, 1978, pp. 209-221.
[In the following essay, Dozier examines Paradise Lost, a play originally criticized for being an inferior version of Awake and Sing!, Odets's first work. Dozier looks beyond superficial similarities between the two plays to analyze several distinct differences between them.]
Paradise Lost has always occupied a special place in the Odets canon. For one thing neither the playwright nor his admirers ever quite gave up on the play. In the Preface to the 1939 Six Plays collection Odets described the piece as his "favorite" despite its poor reception as "a practical theatre work," and twenty years later he was still defending the play by admitting its faults but suggesting that they had somehow grown out of its virtues: "It's too jammed, too crowded, it spills out of its frame, but it is in many ways a beautiful play, velvety; the colors were very gloomy and rich. And no one who acted in it or saw it in that (original) production will ever forget it." So it would seem: when Paradise Lost was recently produced for public television, Harold Clurman, together with Luther and Stella Adler, stepped forward to praise Odets' achievement and to provide nostalgic comment on his first theatrical "failure." About some matters, at least, the Group could still be fervent....
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SOURCE: "Odets' Yinglish: The Psychology of Dialect as Dialogue," in Studies in American Jewish Literature—From Marginality to Mainstream: A Mosaic of Jewish Writers, State University of New York Press, Vol. 2, 1982, pp. 61-68.
[Cantor is an American educator, editor, and non-fiction author. In the following essay, he examines Odets's use of Yinglish—a blend of Yiddish and English language—and its important function in his early plays.]
Odets' Yinglish is only one facet in the development of what I have argued elsewhere was a rich poetic dialogue with roots in the Emersonian tradition. Like Emerson's disciple, Whitman, Odets created in his work a barbaric yawp (he used the word "yawping" in The Big Knife) that was original and distinctive enough to express his individual impressions of urbanized twentieth-century America—a rhythmic utterance capable of conveying precisely the myths and ethos of middle class life that previous playwrights, such as John Howard Lawson and Elmer Rice, had only approximated.
The first breakthrough in Odets' invention of a living, memorable dialogue was a discovery of the resources of Yiddish-English and his willingness to seriously represent, not caricature, the speech rhythms and inflections of the American Jew on the stage. In the enclaves of Philadelphia and the Bronx where he grew up, Odets had ample opportunity to listen to the...
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SOURCE: "Clifford Odets and the Jewish Context," in From Hester Street to Hollywood, edited by Sarah Blacher Cohen, Indiana University Press, 1983, pp. 85-105.
[Shuman is an American biographer, editor, and educator. In the following essay, he explores Odets's personal background and relates Odets's upbringing to the Jewish character of his work. He locates in Odets's plays several distinctly Jewish subjects, including Jewish mothers, exile and alienation, redemption, and idiomatic expression.]
Significant hazards lurk in any attempt to categorize a writer like Clifford Odets in terms of ethnic identity. Certainly Odets was not a Jew in the sense that he was a participating member of a religious group that practiced the rituals of the Jewish faith. Organized religion never played a significant part in his life. Nevertheless, the ethnicity that surrounded him in his formative years imprinted itself upon his writing, much of which has strong Jewish overtones.
ODETS'S EXPOSURE TO THE JEWISH EXPERIENCE
The early Odets, it must be remembered, was essentially and above all a spokesman for the proletariat, a propagandist writing in the first half of the 1930s about the depressed economic and social conditions that threatened the very fiber of American society. Coincidentally, some of the themes directly related to proletarian writing also had legitimate...
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SOURCE: "Remaking Mankind," in The New Yorker, Vol. 60, March 19, 1984, p. 116.
[Gill is an American novelist, short story writer, and critic. In the following review, he pans a modern production of Odets's Awake and Sing! and wonders if the work has been lost to history.]
Innumerable plays have earned recognition in histories of the stage but are no longer readily producible on a stage, and I have the impression that Clifford Odets' Awake and Sing! may be one of them. I call it an impression, and not a conviction, because nobody could possibly judge the value of the play, either as a work deserving a certain place in history or as a source of entertainment to contemporary audiences, by the ramshackle version of it that is currently on view at the Circle in the Square. Odets finished the play when he was twenty-eight, early in 1935; that was his annus mirabilis, in the course of which he wrote three other plays as well, working in feverish, fruitful collaboration with the Group Theatre. What an assortment of gifted young radical idealists (if not quite revolutionaries) they were! Their aspiration was to change the entire world for the better, beginning—their idea of reasonableness—with America. The Bronx in the depths of the Great Depression was the setting of Awake and Sing!, and it was also a symbol: free the inmates of that grim gray prison house of the soul and mankind...
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SOURCE: "Clifford Odets's Musical World, The Failed Utopia," in Studies in American Jewish Literature, edited by Daniel Walden, State University of New York Press, Vol. 5, 1986, pp. 80-88.
[Groman is an American educator, editor, and author. In the following essay, he examines the influence of music on Odets and his works. He finds that Odets's plays often equate music with an inner harmony that offers hope amidst the dissonance of the outside world.]
In the 1935 production of Paradise Lost, playwright Clifford Odets had one of his major characters conclude the final act of the play with a lyrical affirmation of faith. "Everywhere now men are rising from their sleep," the character, Leo Gordon, asserts. "Men, men are understanding the bitter black total of their lives. Their whispers are growing to shouts! They become an ocean of understanding! No man fights alone…. I tell you the whole world is for men to possess. Heartbreak and terror are not the heritage of mankind! The world is beautiful. No fruit tree wears a lock and key. Men will sing at their work, men will love. Ohhh, darling, the world is in its morning … and no man fights alone!"
Leo Gordon, whose visionary statement ends the play, has just lost his business through bankruptcy and the machinations of a dishonest, longtime partner; he has been evicted from his home, his furniture is on the street, and he and...
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SOURCE: "Odets of Hollywood," in Sight and Sound, Vol. 56, No. 1, Winter, 1986/1987, pp. 59-63.
[In the following essay, Peary explores Odets's flirtation with and eventual immersion into Hollywood screenwriting.]
Consider three contemporary playwrights. Sam Shepard becomes a movie star, a heartthrob, Harold Pinter turns out clever screenplays; David Hare directs films—and they do so without looking over their shoulders. Who today would criticise them for diminishing themselves as playwrights, squandering their talents, or just plain selling out? Selling Out—in capitals—the very notion is an anachronism. But in the 30s, for the theatre, the term still meant something. The stage was where 'real' dramatic artists made their stand. Eugene O'Neill never, ever went to Hollywood, Clifford Odets was reminded over and over again. And if Odets wished to be the next O'Neill—or maybe better than O'Neill—he must stay in New York and pump out plays. Some fifty-odd years ago, in 1935, MGM offered Odets $3,000 a week, or more, to write screenplays in Los Angeles. The playwright, though amazed, resisted. 'Like a conspirator, he whispered that he might be willing to consider it,' wrote Harold Clurman, co-founder of the Group Theatre, in The Fervent Years. The Group, however, kept its resident playwright in hand.
In Hollywood, riches awaited Odets. In New York, he remained almost as...
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SOURCE: "Odd Man In," in The New York Review of Books, Vol. XXXV, No. 14, September 29, 1988, pp. 37-42.
[In the following excerpt, Denby reviews The Time is Ripe: The 1940 Journal of Clifford Odets, and comments on Odets's personal revelations at the beginning of a career slide.]
Clifford Odets, [Elia] Kazan's friend and colleague in the Group, had such a mission [an artist's] and was ruined. In love with the theater but eager to make money, Odets dragged himself unhappily through long years in Hollywood, often working on screenplays never filmed or on anonymous rewrites of other men's work (at the end of his life. be was writing a television series for the actor Richard Boone). The journal he kept in 1940, now published by Grove Press as The Time is Ripe, suggests how much the movies attracted and shamed him. In the course of the year (he is thirty-three at the beginning of it) the Group, beginning to lose its way, failed with its New York production of his play Night Music. Odets then traveled to Los Angeles to write a screen adaptation of the play (never made). He was earning $2,500 a week. He was restless, with little to do but work, drink, and sleep with the actress Fay Wray, and he quickly came back.
The year was a turning point for him. No longer the famous young playwright whose picture had been on the cover of Time two years before, be had begun his...
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SOURCE: "Clifford Odets and the Creative Imagination," in Critical Essays on Clifford Odets, edited by Gabriel Miller, G. K. Hall & Co., 1991, pp. 97-105.
[In the following essay, Groman examines Odets's reverence for the inspired creativity of Victor Hugo, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, and Ludwig van Beethoven. Groman then contrasts the high standards of heroism and idealism Odets found in these artists' works with the often hopeless and corrupt situations found in his own.]
Clifford Odets, for all of his adult life as a playwright and screenwriter marveled at the gift of creativity, finding inspiration when that gift seemed within his grasp and enduring depression when it seemed beyond reach. His own experience operated as both a resource and an obstacle as he sought to resolve a number of personal crises—as a son whose father viewed his early acting and writing efforts with contempt, as a lover and husband whose stormy relationships ended in failure and bitterness, and as a creative artist whose need for privacy and discipline conflicted again and again with the temptations and demands of a public life and reputation. Yet whatever his own circumstances, Odets consistently sought fulfillment as a writer, viewing the creative act with reverence and continuing attention, and finding in the efforts of others inspiration as well as validation for his own creative identity.
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SOURCE: "Ark Angels," in The New Yorker, April 4, 1994, pp. 94-6.
[John Lahr is an American author of both fiction and nonfiction, a playwright, and a critic. In the following excerpt, he reviews a 1992 performance of The Flowering Peach and gives background on the play and Odets's reasons for writing it.]
"Half-idealism is the peritonitis of the soul," says Hank Teagle, a character in Clifford Odets' The Big Knife—a play about Hollywood, where Odets moved from New York in 1936, in search of a big audience and big bucks. He lived with a moral malaise every subsequent day of his professional life. Odets died, of cancer, on August 14, 1963, when he was fifty-seven, and on his writing desk were two copies of Time. One was the December 5, 1938, issue, which had Odets on the cover as a wunderkind (between 1935 and 1939 he wrote seven plays, including Awake and Sing! Waiting for Lefty, Golden Boy, and Rocket to the Moon) and bantered his famous battle cry "Down with the general fraud!" The other was a 1962 story announcing his appointment as script editor and chief writer on NBC's TV drama series The Richard Boone Show. In the intervening twenty-four years, Odets had had five more plays performed, and had created one major public sensation: in 1952, he testified as a "friendly witness" before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Odets had been one of the...
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Brenman-Gibson, Margaret. "The Creation of Plays: With a Specimen Analysis." Psychoanalysis, Creativity, and Literature: A French-American Inquiry, edited by Alan Roland, pp. 178-230. New York: Columbia University Press, 1978
Psychoanalysis of Odets and his works that includes substantial biographical information.
Odets, Nora and Walt Whitman. "Hollywood and its Discontents." American Film XIII No. 7 (May 1988): 28-34.
Excerpt from Odets's 1940 journal that chronicles Odets in Hollywood and his thoughts on "selling out," the movie business, and his interactions with movie stars.
Barbour, David, and Seward, Lori. "Waiting for Lefty." The Drama Review 28, No. 4 (Winter 1984): 38-48.
Describes the genesis of Odets's first play and its production, with a complete summary of plot, action, and characters, and lists the original casts from the 1935 debut and subsequent Broadway run.
Bray, Bonita. "Against All Odds: The Progressive Arts Club's Production of Waiting for Lefty." Journal of Canadian Studies 25 No. 3 (Fall 1990): 106-122.
Bray includes a social analysis of Waiting for Lefty in her recounting of...
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