Joshua Logan Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Joshua Lockwood Logan, Jr., was a leading Broadway playwright and director of the mid-twentieth century. He was the son of Susan McHenry Nabors and Joshua Lockwood Logan, Sr. His father committed suicide when the boy was three, although Logan did not learn this until forty years later. Logan, his mother, and younger sister, Mary Lee, then moved to his maternal grandparents’ home in Mansfield, Louisiana, which Logan used forty years later as the setting for his play The Wisteria Trees.

In 1917, his mother married Colonel Howard Noble, an instructor at Culver Military Academy in Indiana, and the whole family went to live there. Logan attended the academy and then went to Princeton University, where he was active in the Triangle Club, Princeton’s leading theater group, and the Theatre Intime. He met Bretaigne Windust, later the director of Howard Lindsay’s Life with Father (1939), Joseph Kesselring’s Arsenic and Old Lace (1941), and E. Y. Harburg and Fred Saidy’s Finian’s Rainbow (1947). After Logan’s freshman year, Windust invited him to join the University Players, a theater group in Falmouth, Massachusetts, founded by Windust and Charles Crane Leatherbee. Among his fellow players were Henry Fonda, whom Logan later directed in Mister Roberts, and Logan’s future wife Barbara O’Neill.

Logan skipped his final semester in 1931 to accompany Leatherbee to Russia, where they observed the famous acting teacher Constantin Stanislavsky direct opera and attended a production of Anton Chekhov’s Vishnyovy sad (pr., pb. 1904; The Cherry Orchard, 1908), which included some of the original cast. This experience profoundly impacted Logan, especially when Stanislavsky told them that he had moved beyond the acting method that bears his name.

After Logan returned to the United States, he started his professional theater career. He made his Broadway debut as an actor in Carry Nation in 1932. He also worked as a casting director, stage manager, box office clerk, and uncredited director. His debut as a credited director took place in 1935 with the play To See Ourselves.


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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Fordin, Hugh. Getting to Know Him: A Biography of Oscar Hammerstein II. New York: Random House, 1977. Chapter 8 covers South Pacific.

Leggett, John. Ross and Tom: Two American Tragedies. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1974. The second half of this book is a biography of Thomas Heggen. Chapters 19 to 21 describe the stage version of Mister Roberts.

Nolan, Frederick. Lorenz Hart: A Poet on Broadway. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. Describes Logan’s direction of three Lorenz Hart musicals, including Higher and Higher, for which Logan received coauthor credit.