Act One Critical Essays

Moss Hart


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

For nearly thirty years, Moss Hart’s name was magic for theater audiences. His career consisted of one theatrical triumph after another, but unlike his heroes George Bernard Shaw, Eugene O’Neill, and the modernists, he provided light, witty entertainment for the masses. In collaboration with Kaufman, he created two comedies that are theater classics: You Can’t Take It with You (1936) and The Man Who Came to Dinner (1939). His script for the landmark Kurt Weill musical Lady in the Dark (1941) combined theories of psychoanalysis with the musical comedy format, and he directed the hit show My Fair Lady (1956). Theater audiences all over the United States knew the name and success of Moss Hart. Few people, however, knew the real man; they knew only the stories of his habit of profligate spending and his seemingly boundless ability to create theatrical triumphs. Consequently, Hart wrote this book to explain, to humanize, and to justify the man behind the successful façade. The book is a personal memoir for himself, his wife, his admirers, and his children in order to give them some sense of his origins. While it was not intended to be a book for young people, it is highly accessible to them and could be an inspiration to many.

The book begins with a description of the squalid life-style of the Hart family and the extremes they experienced in day-to-day living. Hart illustrates the psychological effects of poverty: fear, shame, and the belief that there is no escape from want. He further discusses the effects that these emotions have on a child’s view of his or her parents, such as resenting the parents’...

(The entire section is 677 words.)