William Gibson Biography

Biography (Masterpieces of American Literature)

ph_0111226232-Gibson1914.jpgWilliam Gibson Published by Salem Press, Inc.

William Gibson was born in the Bronx, New York City, on November 13, 1914. His father, a mailroom clerk and a talented amateur pianist, died during Gibson’s childhood, and his Irish Catholic mother had to work as a scrubwoman to support the family. A Mass for the Dead (1968) is a heartfelt chronicle of Gibson’s childhood and adolescence. Emulating his father, Gibson learned to play the piano as a child and in his early writing days worked as a piano teacher and as a performer to supplement his income. His lifelong interest in music is reflected in his work on the libretto for the operetta The Ruby (1955) and the text for the 1964 musical Golden Boy. By the time he was sixteen, Gibson had graduated from Townsend Harris Hall, a Manhattan public high school for gifted boys, and had begun work at what later became known as City College of the City University of New York. Gibson did not like college, however, and dropped out after two years.

In 1940, at twenty-six, Gibson married Margaret Brenman, a psychoanalyst, whose work with the Menninger Clinic had led them to Topeka, Kansas. At the Topeka Civic Theatre, Gibson had his first plays performed, a one-act verse drama about the Apostle Peter, I Lay in Zion (1943), Dinny and the Witches (1945), and A Cry of Players (1948). Dinny and the Witches was revised and produced Off-Broadway in 1959 but was panned by critics and closed after only twenty-nine performances. A Cry of Players was also produced in New York City at Lincoln Center in 1968 but enjoyed only moderate success.

In the 1940’s, however, Gibson had not settled on being a playwright. He was also writing short stories and poems and won the Harriet Monroe Memorial Prize for a group of poems published in Poetry in 1945. He also published, through Oxford University Press, a collection of poems titled Winter Crook in 1948. Eventually, he wrote a novel, The Cobweb (1954), which he sold to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studios, earning enough to buy a home in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where his wife had taken a new job.

In Massachusetts, Gibson turned again to drama and in 1956 completed the play that would launch his meteoric Broadway career....

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William Gibson Biography (Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

William Gibson was born in New York on November 13, 1914, the son of lower-middle-class parents. The families of both parents were musical. Several of Gibson’s maternal uncles belonged to the most famous banjo band of the early 1900’s, and his mother’s family operated a music school, where Gibson’s mother had met his father, a talented popular pianist. Gibson himself mastered the piano and, in his late teens and early twenties, he tried to become a professional musician. This background explains his lifelong attraction to music, an interest reflected in his writing of pieces such as the libretto for the operetta The Ruby (which he wrote under the name of William Mass) and the text for the 1964 musical Golden Boy, a project that he finished for Clifford Odets, who died before it was completed.

Although Gibson was graduated at age sixteen from Townsend Harris Hall, a high school for academically talented boys that was affiliated with the City College of New York, he found college stultifying. He took his most rewarding classes at City College of New York from English professor Theodore Goodman, who encouraged his writing. After attending college sporadically for about two years, Gibson dropped out to educate himself, to become a musician, and to launch his writing career. During his years in college and immediately after, he became a Depression-era communist and lectured on street corners to support this cause.

In 1940, Gibson married Margaret Brenman, a psychoanalyst, whom he had followed first to her graduate school and then to her psychiatric positions in Topeka, Kansas (where they married), and later in Stockbridge, Massachusetts where he lived until his death in 2008. His first literary success came with the recognition he gained from his 1945 Harriet Monroe Memorial Prize. In 1954, he published a best-selling novel, The Cobweb, which he sold to Hollywood. The movie of the same name starred Lauren Bacall, Charles Boyer, and Richard Widmark and appeared in 1955 after Gibson helped rewrite the screenplay.

Gibson became interested in drama early in his career. After dropping out of college, he acted at the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia, where he wrote several unproduced plays. While in Topeka, Kansas, he...

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William Gibson Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111201161-Gibson.jpgWilliam Gibson Published by Salem Press, Inc.

The dramatist William Gibson, who is best known for writing The Miracle Worker, was born to lower middle-class parents. His mother’s family were vaudevillians. His father worked for the post office and later in the mail room of a major bank. Both of Gibson’s parents were musical. His mother played the mandolin and his father the piano. Gibson’s father was a Protestant, but Gibson and his sister were brought up in the Roman Catholic religion of their mother, even though she was not able to take communion for thirty years, having been married in a civil ceremony. Gibson writes about his family, childhood, and early adulthood in A Mass for the Dead.

From 1930 to 1932, Gibson attended City College of New York, but he did not take a degree. He became a communist for a short time. Gibson sold his first writing, a short story, in the mid-1930’s. After his first marriage ended in divorce, he married the psychiatrist Margaret Brenman in 1940; they had two sons. Until he was able to support himself through his writing, he taught music and literature, gave piano lessons, worked in community theaters, and sold an occasional story or poem.

Gibson first won recognition as a poet. In 1945, he won the Harriet Monroe Memorial Prize for a group of his poems. In 1950, he attended a playwrights’ seminar held by Clifford Odets, whom Gibson later cited as a major influence. His novel The Cobweb, which is set in a psychiatric hospital, was a best-seller in 1954; he also wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation.

In 1958, Gibson had a Broadway production of his play Two for the Seesaw, which ran for 750 performances. A...

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William Gibson Biography (Drama for Students)

William Gibson was born in the Bronx, New York, on November 13,1914, the son of George Irving, a bank clerk, and Florence (Dore) Gibson. Gibson spent his childhood in New York City and eventually attended the City College of New York, where he studied from 1930 until 1932. After graduation, Gibson moved to Kansas, supporting himself as a piano teacher while pursuing his interest in theatre. It was in Topeka, Kansas, that Gibson had his earliest plays produced. Most of these early works were light comedies; two of them were later revised and restaged: A Cry Of The Players and Dinny and the Witches, both in 1948. Shortly after his time in Kansas, Gibson met a psychoanalyst named Margaret Brenman; the two were married on September 6, 1940, and eventually had two sons, Thomas and David.

Gibson's first major critical and popular success in New York was Two for The Seesaw, which opened on Broadway in 1958. He was praised for the play's brisk dialogue and the compassion with which he endowed the characters. However, it is Gibson's second Broadway production, The Miracle Worker, for which he is best known.

Gibson first became fascinated with Anne Sullivan and her triumph as Helen Keller's teacher while reading the letters that Anne Sullivan wrote in 1887 describing her experiences in the Keller household. It was these letters and also Nella Brady's biography, Anne Sullivan Macy, that inspired Gibson to write about Anne Sullivan's accomplishments. Gibson first attempted to write The Miracle Worker as a solo dance piece but wrote it as a television play for the series Playhouse 90, which was produced by CBS. After The Miracle Worker was warmly received when it aired on CBS on February 7,1957, Gibson received offers to adapt it for stage and film. He decided to write it for the stage because he wished to have more artistic control over the production. Although it opened to mixed reviews, positive press and word-of-mouth led to The Miracle Worker's success on Broadway.

The Miracle Worker was adapted as a feature-length film starring Anne Bancroft as Annie and Patty Duke as Helen in 1962, and was again produced for television in 1979 with Patty Duke playing the role of Annie and Melissa Gilbert as Helen. After The Miracle Worker, Gibson continued to write for the theatre and became a member of the Dramatists Guild. However, after Golden Boy (1964), which was a musical adaptation of Clifford Odets's play of the same name, Gibson largely withdrew from the New York theatre scene. It was during this time in the 1960s and 1970s that he founded and became president of the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Gibson did return to the New York stage, however, during the 1980s; The Monday after the Miracle, his sequel to The Miracle Worker opened on Broadway on December 14,1982, at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre. The Monday after The Miracle was a much darker piece than its predecessor and garnered poor reviews and attendance; it closed after a short run. The Miracle Worker continues to be Gibson's best known work and is the drama on which his reputation rests.