Maxwell Anderson Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

James Maxwell Anderson was born the son of a Baptist minister in Atlantic, Pennsylvania, on December 15, 1888. The family moved frequently, but in time, Maxwell enrolled at the University of North Dakota, where he wrote poetry and drama. Following graduation, in 1911, he married Margaret Haskett. After two years of teaching high school, he enrolled at Stanford University, where he earned a master’s degree in 1914. After having taught for five years, Anderson went into journalism, working for the Chronicle and the Bulletin in San Francisco. In 1918, he moved to New York, where he worked on the editorial staffs of The New Republic, New York Evening Globe, and New York World.

Anderson’s playwriting did not begin until 1923, when, at the age of thirty-five, he wrote the verse tragedy White Desert. Although that play flopped, it impressed fellow playwright Laurence Stallings enough to begin collaborating with him. In 1924, the two collaborated on What Price Glory?, a realistic antiwar play that was well received.

Following this success, Anderson began to broaden his techniques, writing in both verse and prose. After subsequent collaborations with Stallings did not prove successful, Anderson parted company with him. He was to write six more plays before he achieved another success, with Elizabeth the Queen in 1930.

Through the 1940’s and 1950’s, Anderson...

(The entire section is 427 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111207668-Anderson_M.jpg Maxwell Anderson in 1956 Published by Salem Press, Inc.

James Maxwell Anderson was born near Atlantic, Pennsylvania, on December 15, 1888, the son of Baptist lay minister William Lincoln Anderson and Charlotta Perrimela Stephenson. During the first few years of Anderson’s life, the family moved frequently from parish to parish in Ohio and Pennsylvania. He started high school in 1904 but had already begun to receive an informal education through constant reading—a habit that was to stay with him throughout his life. By the time he graduated from Jamestown High School in North Dakota in 1908, he had discovered John Keats, Percy Bysshe Shelley, William Shakespeare, and other great poets. He had also begun to write poetry, which became a lifelong avocation.{$S[A]Michaelson, John Nairne;Anderson, Maxwell}

During his ensuing college days at the University of North Dakota, Anderson became increasingly involved in poetic and dramatic studies. He was a charter member of a theatrical group organized by professor Frederick H. Koch; he edited the school yearbook, and he wrote the class play in 1911. These formative experiences prepared Anderson to pursue a theatrical career and, especially, to focus on poetic drama for the modern stage.

After marriage to classmate Margaret Haskett, Anderson began a short-lived career in education as a teacher and high school principal. Graduate study in English at Stanford University, several teaching jobs, and copyediting work with two San Francisco newspapers preceded an offer from The New Republic to become a staff writer in New York City. There, from 1919 to 1922, Anderson published numerous poems and essays while working on the editorial staffs of two newspapers. He was also cofounder and editor of Measure, a monthly poetry magazine that published many of the best poets of the time.

Beginning in 1923, however, Anderson turned his attention to drama. His first produced play was White Desert, a verse tragedy about hardship and jealousy on the North Dakota plains. Although it ran for only twelve New York performances, it showed his determination to bring...

(The entire section is 855 words.)


(Drama for Students)

From high school on, it was clear that Maxwell Anderson was destined to work with words. What was not yet clear was that he would end up...

(The entire section is 484 words.)