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Last Updated on May 10, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 435

Moss Hart’s Act One: An Autobiography deals with three separate themes: the rise from poverty to financial stability, the acceptance of family, and success in a chosen career (the theater). The book details Hart’s life from childhood until his first major theatrical triumph. In doing so, it explores poverty as...

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Moss Hart’s Act One: An Autobiography deals with three separate themes: the rise from poverty to financial stability, the acceptance of family, and success in a chosen career (the theater). The book details Hart’s life from childhood until his first major theatrical triumph. In doing so, it explores poverty as a force of discrimination and tells the story of how one member of a family makes his peace with the other personalities contained in that unit. To realize these goals, Hart divides his book into two sections, which he calls “Part One” and “Part Two,” just as any playwright divides acts of a work into scenes. He does not choose to number chapter divisions, but he indicates them by a broad margin at the top of the page.

Part One begins with the first time the boy Moss sees the theatrical Broadway district and ends when, after a disappointing summer as social director for the Half Moon Country Club, he sets out to write a play. Part Two begins four years later, after Hart becomes the most sought-after social director in the Catskills’ summer circuit and closes with the success of his first Broadway play, Once in a Lifetime (1930), written in collaboration with George S. Kaufman. The book concludes with the word “Intermission,” as Hart intended to finish the story of his life in a projected two volumes entitled Act Two and Act Three.

After Hart introduces his fascination with and love for the theater, he flashes back to his family and, beginning with his grandfather, follows a chronological sequence of memories to the climax of the first segment of his life. He is the narrator of the work, and all people, events, or concepts are viewed through his eyes, perceptions, and reactions. Names of famous and near-famous theatrical personalities flow through the book, not for the sake of gossip but rather in connection to Hart’s exposure to them. He is never judgmental about these figures or their actions; the only person whom he judges is himself as he looks back on specific times in his life.

The book becomes a confessional and a justification for how Hart became the person that he was. This technique, in retrospect, is a way of saying, “Oh, that is why I have this quirk or that characteristic.” It is as though Hart is thinking to himself on paper, and the book is so personal and compelling that it seems as though his thoughts can be overheard. The reader can also learn much about the business of theater and its history while reading Hart’s autobiography.

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