Other Literary Forms
George S. Kaufman began his literary career by voluntarily writing humorous verse and prose for Franklin P. Adams’s column in the New York Evening Mail. Later, he was hired to write his own column in the Washington Times. Kaufman then replaced Adams at the Evening Mail for a short time, was fired, and took a job as a reporter on the New York Tribune. Shortly thereafter, he was made drama editor, only to leave the Tribune in 1917 for the same position at The New York Times. He held on to his relationship with The New York Times, despite his success as a playwright, until 1930, when he was asked to resign because his career as a playwright was taking too much of his time. Throughout his life he contributed short sketches, prose humor, and light verse to such magazines as Saturday Review, The Nation, Life, Theatre magazine, Playbill, and The New Yorker (founded by his friend Harold Ross), as well as various newspapers.
Kaufman also wrote several screenplays, although he disliked Hollywood and, as a rule, avoided long-term relationships with the film industry. The Marx Brothers ’ films The Cocoanuts (1929) and Animal Crackers (1931), which Kaufman wrote in collaboration with Morrie Ryskind , were adapted from their plays and filmed in New York. Later, Samuel Goldwyn hired Kaufman and Robert E. Sherwood to write the screenplay for Roman Scandals (1933); a disagreement with star Eddie Cantor caused Kaufman to invoke the clause of his contract that stipulated that he would not have to work with Cantor. In 1935, Irving Thalberg of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer guaranteed Kaufman $100,000 to write (with Ryskind) the Marx Brothers’ classic A Night at the Opera (1935). By 1936, his distaste for Hollywood was such that he refused to adapt his and Moss Hart’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play You Can’t Take It with You for the screen. Ironically, the film later won the 1938 Academy Award for Best Picture.