Other Literary Forms
Elmer Rice was a versatile and prolific writer. He was not only a serious dramatist, with more than thirty published plays to his credit at the time of his death, but also a novelist of some skill. In 1930, he published A Voyage to Purilia, a satire on Hollywood based on his experiences there during his stint as a writer for Samuel Goldwyn shortly after World War I. In the novel, Rice satirizes the shortcomings and triteness of the movie industry. That the book was accepted for serialization in The New Yorker attests Rice’s skill as a stylist and craftsperson. Rice’s second novel, Imperial City (1937), was written during his four-year retirement from the theater. The work examines the variegated pattern of New York City life and offers a panoramic view of that fascinating metropolis. Rice was praised for the completeness of his depiction. In his third and final novel, The Show Must Go On (1949), Rice drew on his experiences in the theater world. The book received some acclaim, both in the United States and in England, and has been translated into several foreign languages.
Rice is not remembered for his success as a screenwriter. He did, however, work in Hollywood after World War I and again in the 1930’s, and still later in the 1940’s. In the 1930’s, Rice was hired by Universal to serve as scenarist for the film version of his own play Counsellor-at-Law. In the late 1940’s, Rice agreed to do a screenplay based on Earth and High Heaven (1944), a novel by a Canadian writer, Gwethalyn Graham. The screenplay was completed, but the film was never made.
Rice also published a wide-ranging book on the theater, entitled The Living Theatre (1959). In it, he distinguishes the theater from the drama and covers other areas such as the status of the theater in Japan, England, and the Soviet Union, the beginnings of the theater in the United States and its growth, the Federal Theatre Project, commercialism in the arts, and censorship. In 1963, Rice published his autobiography, Minority Report, which is fascinating reading for any student of modern American drama.