Horton Foote Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Albert Horton Foote, Jr., was born in Wharton, Texas, on March 14, 1916. His family had significant connections in Texas history, his great-great-grandfather having been the first elected lieutenant governor of Texas. While attending high school in Wharton, Foote developed an interest in drama and played parts in several school plays. He decided to study acting, and though the Depression was well under way, he was given enough assistance by members of his family to take classes at an acting school in Dallas, and a year later, his father sent him to California to study at the Pasadena Playhouse. During his two years in Pasadena, he worked on his acting skills, and after seeing Eva Le Gallienne in a memorable performance of Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler (pb. 1890; English translation, 1891), Foote resolved to pursue a career in the theater. After completing his second year in Pasadena, he accepted a friend’s offer of summer work associated with a drama company in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. After two months in Massachusetts, Foote moved to New York City, where he survived by getting occasional acting parts. A chance encounter with an old acquaintance led to his meeting Tamara Daykarhanova, Andrius Jilinsky, and Vera Soloviova, Russian exiles who taught acting, and from whom Foote began taking classes. Later, Foote joined several other students in forming the American Actors Company.

In 1939, Agnes de Mille suggested to Foote that he write a play. He wrote a one-act play titled Gulf Storm, which was produced as Wharton Dance by the American Actors Company and favorably reviewed by Robert Coleman. This production marks a significant milestone in the career of Foote, whose career as playwright was to last more than sixty years and to include, by his own estimate, some sixty plays. He continued to play various theatrical parts with the American Actors and wherever else he could find work, but as his desire to write plays grew, his desire to act in plays diminished. He had already realized that in writing drama he could combine the world of his own past with the cosmopolitan world of the theater, and it is significant that he went home to Wharton, Texas, to write his second play Texas Town.

Shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, Foote’s third play Out of My House was produced, and Foote prepared himself for the military draft. Somewhat to his shock, he was found by the medical examiners to...

(The entire section is 1018 words.)