James Maxwell Anderson was born the son of a Baptist minister in Atlantic, Pennsylvania, on December 15, 1888. The family moved frequently, but in time, Maxwell enrolled at the University of North Dakota, where he wrote poetry and drama. Following graduation, in 1911, he married Margaret Haskett. After two years of teaching high school, he enrolled at Stanford University, where he earned a master’s degree in 1914. After having taught for five years, Anderson went into journalism, working for the Chronicle and the Bulletin in San Francisco. In 1918, he moved to New York, where he worked on the editorial staffs of The New Republic, New York Evening Globe, and New York World.
Anderson’s playwriting did not begin until 1923, when, at the age of thirty-five, he wrote the verse tragedy White Desert. Although that play flopped, it impressed fellow playwright Laurence Stallings enough to begin collaborating with him. In 1924, the two collaborated on What Price Glory?, a realistic antiwar play that was well received.
Following this success, Anderson began to broaden his techniques, writing in both verse and prose. After subsequent collaborations with Stallings did not prove successful, Anderson parted company with him. He was to write six more plays before he achieved another success, with Elizabeth the Queen in 1930.
Through the 1940’s and 1950’s, Anderson...
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