Marc Connelly Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Marcus Cook Connelly was born December 13, 1890. The year before, his parents, Patrick Joseph and Mabel Louise Fowler (Cook) Connelly, two touring actors, had settled in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, blaming the death of their first child on the hardships of the touring life. His father managed the White Hotel, a favorite stop for traveling circus troupes and theatrical companies, who imbued young Marc with what he later described as “the early feeling that going to the theatre is like going to an unusual church, where the spirit is nourished in mysterious ways, and pure magic may occur at any moment.”

Connelly’s father died of pneumonia when his son was twelve, and following the failure of the White Hotel in 1908, Connelly’s hopes for college were dashed. When he and his mother moved to Pittsburgh, Connelly began a career with local newspapers, finally becoming second-string drama critic and author of a humorous weekly column, “Jots and Tittles,” for the Pittsburgh Gazette Times. He also spent his evenings writing, directing, and stage-managing skits for the Pittsburgh Athletic Association. In 1913, Connelly wrote the lyrics for Alfred Ward Birdsall’s The Lady of Luzon, which so impressed local steel magnate Joseph Riter that Connelly was commissioned to write the lyrics and libretto for a play that Riter was producing on Broadway, The Amber Princess. The play, which after two years of rewriting finally contained only Connelly’s title and the lyrics to one song, failed, and the hopeful young playwright was forced to return to newspaper work, this time far from home.

While covering the theater district for the New York Morning Telegraph in 1917, Connelly met George S. Kaufman , who was then second-string drama critic for The New York Times. At the suggestion of the producer George C. Tyler, Connelly and Kaufman collaborated on a vehicle for Lynn Fontanne entitled Dulcy, which opened August 13, 1921, and was so popular (running for 246 performances) that they immediately created a sequel as a vehicle for another young star, Helen Hayes, entitled To the Ladies (which ran for 128 performances). The team again collaborated on a misguided effort, The Deep Tangled Wildwood, which was shelved following a disastrous out-of-town tryout in May, 1922, and later reworked and produced on Broadway on November 5, 1923, running for only sixteen performances. Their greatest success as a team came with Merton of the Movies, the story of an innocent shop clerk who seeks stardom in Hollywood. It opened in November 13, 1922, and played for 398 performances.

At this same time, Connelly was firmly entrenched as a member of that...

(The entire section is 1115 words.)