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.)

Marc Connelly Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)
ph_0111207685-Connelly.jpg Marc Connelly in 1937. Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Playwright, director, journalist, teacher, author, and actor, Marcus Cook Connelly is best known as George S. Kaufman’s first collaborator and as the author of the popular religious drama The Green Pastures. His father, Patrick Connelly, was an actor and became the proprietor of the White Hotel in McKeesport, where Marc first learned about acting while watching the most famous actors and actresses of the time practice in front of a mirror. When Connelly was seven, his parents took him to Pittsburgh for his first visit to the professional theater, and he was so mesmerized that he believed that he was in church. This initial impression led him to his lifelong conviction that the theater is a place where the spirit is nourished. Convinced that he had found his true calling, Connelly began writing and producing numerous plays on the second floor of his father’s hotel at the age of eleven. After moving to Pittsburgh, Connelly began to write short humorous pieces for a local newspaper, the Pittsburgh Press. After a year, he was hired by the Gazette Times as humor columnist, news reporter, and assistant drama critic. It was during this period that Connelly began writing plays, skits, and lyrics for musicals.

In 1920, when Connelly was fired from his job as press agent for a musical comedy, he started his collaborations with Kaufman, who was the drama critic of The New York Times. Between 1920 and 1924, Connelly and Kaufman wrote several plays and musical comedies together, at least four of which are of permanent interest to the theater. All of their plays attack the elevation of fashionable art over classical art. While they worked together, Connelly and Kaufman were also members of the Round Table of the Algonquin Hotel, and the influence of the other writers who belonged to this informal lunch group can be easily detected in their many collaborations. Their first play, Dulcy, was based on a fatuous character created by the columnist F. P. Adams and was used as a vehicle for Lynn Fontanne.

After the termination of his partnership with Kaufman, Connelly joined the ranks of established writers such as Alexander Woollcott and Edna Ferber who contributed to Harold Ross’s fledgling magazine The New Yorker with essays, skits, satires, and travel articles. One of Connelly’s short stories, “Coroner’s Inquest,” won for him an O. Henry Award...

(The entire section is 988 words.)

Marc Connelly Biography

(Drama for Students)

Marcus Cook Connelly was born on December 13, 1890, in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. His father, Patrick Joseph Connelly, was an actor and hotel...

(The entire section is 261 words.)