Laurence Stallings Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

An important early influence on Laurence Tucker Stallings’s development was his mother, Aurora Brooks Stallings, who had a flair for music and literature. As a boy Stallings also developed a fascination for Civil War heroes. He earned his B.A. at Wake Forest University in North Carolina in 1916, and after a short stint as a reporter for the Atlanta Journal, he enlisted in the Marines in 1917 after the United States entered World War I. In France he saw action on the last day of battle at Belleau Wood. In the course of a charge he was seriously wounded, an injury that led to the amputation of one leg in 1922. (In 1963 the other leg also had to be amputated). Following the war he earned an M.A. at Georgetown University in 1922, after which he worked as a reporter first for The Washington Times and then for The New York World, where playwright Maxwell Anderson was also employed; in 1931 he joined The New York Sun. During these years in New York, Stallings met many literary figures of the day at the legendary Algonquin Hotel.

Unquestionably Stallings’s first play, What Price Glory?, written in collaboration with Maxwell Anderson, became his most celebrated, even though he wrote only one of the three acts of this dramatic comedy. In this act, however, Stallings documents his response to his war experience. In the cellar of an embattled French town on the Western Front, two longtime friendly enemies, Captain Flagg and Sergeant Quirt, quarrel about the bloody business of war. Stallings mixes bawdy humor with a more subtle message about war’s futility. He also spiced up Anderson’s language...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Brittain, Joan T. Laurence Stallings. Boston: Twayne, 1975. A brief and simple treatment of Stallings’s life and work. Includes a selected bibliography.

Flexner, Eleanor. American Playwrights, 1918-1938: The Theatre Retreats from Reality. Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1969. Provides a good philosophical critique of What Price Glory?

Krutch, Joseph Wood. The American Drama Since 1918: An Informal History. Rev. ed. New York: G. Braziller, 1957. Insightful in contrasting the romantic dash and vivid portrayal of emotions in What Price Glory? with the unexceptional qualities of First Flight and The Buccaneer, which both feature more routine kinds of cloak-and-dagger melodrama.