Mary Chase Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Mary Coyle (later Chase) was born February 25, 1907, in Denver, Colorado, to Irish immigrant parents. The youngest of four children, she grew up in an environment rich with Irish folklore and mythology, which later influenced her plays and children’s stories. A brilliant student, she was graduated from West Denver High School at the age of fifteen and studied classics at the University of Denver and later at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

On graduation, she began writing for the Rocky Mountain News and, in 1928, married fellow reporter Robert L. Chase. When a practical joke she devised got her fired, Chase concentrated on raising a family and writing plays for the regional theaters in Denver. In 1936, her first play, Me, Third, was produced in Denver, where it was such a success that producer Brock Pemberton was convinced it could succeed on Broadway. In March and April of 1937, retitled Now You’ve Done It, it played forty-three performances at the Henry Miller Theatre in New York—not a hit by Broadway standards. Her next play, Sorority House, did not tempt Broadway but interested Hollywood: It was filmed by RKO-Radio in 1939, starring Veronica Lake. After two more Chase comedies did not play beyond Boulder, Chase and Pemberton tried Broadway once more with Harvey and hit it big.

Not only was Harvey one of the biggest hits of the 1944-1945 season, but also it won the 1945...

(The entire section is 483 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Mary McDonough Coyle Chase was known primarily for three delicate fantasies written in the post-World War II era. Although peopled by eccentric characters, Chase’s plays are comic, humane, and filled with an optimistic spirit of goodwill. Chase was the daughter of working-class parents: her mother, Mary McDonough, immigrated from Ulster County, Ireland to keep house for her four brothers. Chase’s father, Frank Coyle, drifted into Denver, failing to have made his fortune in an Oklahoma land grab. After marrying, he worked as a salesman for a flour mill. Chase inherited both her work ethic and her sense of fun and whimsy from her family.

During childhood, Chase listened wide-eyed to tales of Irish folklore told by her mother and her Uncle Timothy. Although a self-admitted tomboy, Chase was also a book lover. She was heard to joke that, in school, she had the highest grades for study and the lowest grades for conduct. Her interest in theater began at age eleven when she would skip school to walk five miles to attend a matinee. After graduating from high school at age fifteen, Chase attended the University of Denver for two and a half years before transferring to the University of Colorado. On summer vacations, she worked as an apprentice reporter for The Rocky Mountain News. After a year at Colorado, she took a paying job with the newspaper, where she wrote society columns, club notes, and human-interest stories, managing to be fired and rehired three times, before she married Robert Chase, who was to become managing editor of The Rocky Mountain News.

Chase’s newspaper work was an internship for her later career as a playwright. As society reporter, she had a unique opportunity to observe and comment on social structures, conventions, and personalities which she would later satirize in her plays. As a human-interest writer (“sob-sister”), she learned to overwrite and manipulate her reading audience into tears or laughter.

Chase’s first play Me, Third, a political satire, was produced in Denver as a Federal Theatre Project. Seen by Broadway producer Brock Pemberton, who brought it to New York in 1937, the play opened as Now I’ve Done It, but was not successful; however, Chase took the disappointment as a...

(The entire section is 933 words.)


(Drama for Students)

When she was a little girl, Mary Chase’s three Irish uncles, Pete, Tim, and Jamie, amused her with stories from Celtic mythology of pookas...

(The entire section is 401 words.)