Tad Mosel was born George Ault Mosel, Jr., in 1922 in Steubenville, Ohio, a small industrial city on the Ohio River. Though his family moved to New York only eight years later, his teleplays, notably Ernie Barger Is Fifty, The Lawn Party, Presence of the Enemy, and That’s Where the Town’s Going, are often set in small Ohio River towns and consciously crafted from his memories of Midwestern life. His father, George Ault Mosel, Sr., an advertising executive, and his wife, Margaret, shared their love for the theater with their son, taking him as a child to serious dramas instead of typical children’s fare. He particularly recalled being star-struck by Katharine Cornell in George Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan (pr. 1923, pb. 1924) in 1936, at the age of fourteen. More than forty years later, he wrote a biography of the stage legend.
Entering Amherst College in 1940, Mosel immediately found a home in the college theater department, which produced his play The Happiest Years early in his junior year. World War II interrupted his undergraduate work, however, and he served in the U.S. Air Force Weather Service, also editing his squadron’s newspaper. After the war, Mosel completed his degree requirements at Amherst, receiving a B.A. in 1947, and did graduate work at the Yale School of Drama. At Yale he studied more experimental modern playwrights and wrote a Luigi Pirandello-inspired one-act that became one of his most-acted pieces, Impromptu.
During his Yale years, the new medium of television was in need of original scripts, and Mosel was contracted to expand a treatment into a script for Chevrolet Tele-Theater in 1949. Unsure of the new medium’s potential, he landed a steady job as a clerk for Northwest Airlines while he continued to write scripts for the weekly drama series Omnibus and to pursue graduate study at Columbia. Then in 1953, only months after completing his master’s degree, he sold his first original teleplay, Ernie Barger Is Fifty , to the Columbia Broadcasting...
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