Joseph Kesselring was born on June 21, 1902, in New York City, to Henry and Frances Kesselring. From 1922 to 1924 he taught music and directed student productions at Bethel College in Newton, Kansas. He turned to acting, producing, and writing from 1925 until 1933, when his first play, Addie Appleby, Maker of Men, a domestic comedy, was produced. His second play There’s Wisdom in Women, produced in 1935, gained some attention but he would not experience real success until Arsenic and Old Lace hit Broadway in 1941. Kesselring continued his playwriting career until 1963, but his later plays never earned him the same popular and critical acclaim. He continued writing dramas and short stories until his death on November 5, 1967.
Kesselring won further accolades for his screenplay of Arsenic and Old Lace, which became a commercial and critical success. The play continues to be a favorite production in amateur and community theater revivals.
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