Other Literary Forms

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Moss Hart is known primarily for his plays. He also achieved success as a screenwriter; among his best-known screenplays are those for Gentleman’s Agreement (1947) and A Star Is Born (1954). In 1959, Hart published his autobiography, Act One, which was made into a film in 1963, as were many of his plays. Finally, Hart published a handful of miscellaneous articles on theater subjects.

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Achievements

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Moss Hart was one of the great comic playwrights of American drama. In works such as Once in a Lifetime, You Can’t Take It with You, and The Man Who Came to Dinner, he gave the theater some of its most amusing moments. He was awarded the Roi Cooper Megrue Award in 1930 for Once in a Lifetime and in 1937, with George S. Kaufman, the Pulitzer Prize for You Can’t Take It with You.

Because Hart’s best works are his collaborations with Kaufman, his critical stature will always be obscured by that of the older, more famous dramatist. It would be a mistake, however, to think of Hart as simply Kaufman’s collaborator. Kaufman worked with several partners in his career, including such talents as Ring Lardner, Alexander Woollcott, and Edna Ferber, but none of them produced such fine results with Kaufman as Hart did, nor were any of the Kaufman and Hart plays the work of one man more than the other. Theirs was a true collaboration, with each man contributing equally to the final product. Moreover, Hart’s solo works, such as Lady in the Dark, with its innovative staging and probing of psychological conflicts, show that he could create significant drama on his own.

In addition to playwriting and screenwriting, Hart directed such plays as Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s Camelot (pr. 1960) and My Fair Lady (pr. 1956); the latter won for Hart a Tony Award.

Bibliography

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Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 508

Ashley, Leonard R. N. “Moss Hart.” In Great Writers of the English Language: Dramatists, edited by James Vinson. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1979. An objective approach to Hart.

Atkinson, Brooks. Broadway. New York: Macmillan, 1970. This general survey of the Broadway stage, written by the famous drama critic of The New York Times, explores the personal and professional dimension of the writer as well as the collaboration between Hart and George S. Kaufman. Atkinson enumerates their contributions to Broadway theater and maintains that they presided over an era. According to Atkinson, they wrote comedy that was unprecedentedly iconoclastic. Contains numerous illustrations.

Bach, Steven. Dazzler: The Life and Times of Moss Hart. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001. Includes bibliographical references and an index.

Brown, Jared. Moss Hart: A Prince of the Theatre. New York: Back Stage Books, 2006. A traditional biography of the playwright and director that charts his creative development, complete with forty-seven black and white photos and maps.

Ferber, Edna. “A Rolling Stone Gathers Considerable Heart.” Stage 14 (December, 1936): 41-43. Ferber, a contemporary of Hart as a writer of Broadway plays and fellow collaborator with George S. Kaufman, describes her impressions of the man and his work. She gives him much credit for his iconoclastic artistic triumphs.

Goldstein, Malcolm. George S. Kaufman: His Life, His Theatre. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979. In this standard work on the Broadway theater of the period, Goldstein gives an insightful portrait of Kaufman as a man and an artist. Offers an interesting account of the period of collaboration between Kaufman and Hart. Contains numerous illustrations.

Harriman, Margaret Case. “Hi-Yo Platinum!” In Take Them Up Tenderly: A Collection of Profiles. 1944. Reprint. Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1972. This sketch of Hart presents a warm, if somewhat dated, portrayal.

Meredith, Scott. George S. Kaufman and His Friends. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1974. Discusses Hart’s work with Kaufman.

Miller, Daryl H. “Like Father, Like Son? Sort Of, as He Stages Moss Hart’s Plays, Son Chris Learns from His Late Legend of a Dad.” Los Angeles Times, October 17, 1999, p. 50. Christopher Hart, son of Moss Hart and Kitty Carlisle Hart, discusses his father and the theater on the occasion of a staging of You Can’t Take It with You.

Mordden, Ethan. The American Theatre. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981. This chronicle of the American stage from its beginnings to 1980 discusses Hart’s 1936 play You Can’t Take It With You in the context of the Broadway stage in the midst of the Depression years. According to the author, a major feature of American drama in the 1930’s was its interpretations and affirmations of the democratic system.

Sievers, Wieder D. Freud on Broadway: A History of Psychoanalysis and the American Drama. New York: Hermitage House, 1955. In this work on the relationship between the theories of Sigmund Freud and American drama, Sievers suggests that Hart achieved his psychological insights into character in part from personal psychoanalysis. Hart himself describes Freud’s theory of the unconscious as the most influential of Freud’s concepts on his work.

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