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...
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