Robert Ludlum Additional Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Robert Ludlum was one of the twentieth century’s most successful practitioners of the conspiracy thriller, wherein an individual is faced with a series of overwhelming events created by powerful evil forces which threaten not only his life but often the peace and security of the entire world.{$S[A]Ryder, Jonathan;Ludlum, Robert}{$S[A]Shepherd, Michael;Ludlum, Robert}

Born in New York City into an upper-middle-class family, Ludlum was only seven years old when his father, George Hartford Ludlum, died. His mother, Margaret Wadsworth, daughter of a wealthy businessman, provided a financially comfortable childhood for him in New Jersey. He was educated at private schools in Connecticut and, attracted to acting, took part in many school productions. At the age of sixteen he began auditioning in New York for theater roles, obtaining a part in the Broadway production of Junior Miss in 1943. While touring with the show, he attempted to join the Royal Canadian Air Force but was rejected because of his age. In 1944, Ludlum forged his mother’s name and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, serving in the South Pacific. His military career was unrewarding, as he found the tedium and the military chain of command restricting and frustrating. He kept a diary of his Marine Corps experiences but lost it when he returned to mainland, later joking that it might have been another The Naked and the Dead (by Norman Mailer, 1948).

After his discharge, Ludlum enrolled in Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, as a theater major. There he met his future wife, Mary Ryducha, with whom he would have three children. He graduated with honors in 1951. During the following decade, Ludlum was moderately successful as an actor. He performed in a number of New England repertory theaters as well as in several New York productions, but he was most successful in the relatively new venue of television, where he appeared in two hundred dramas for such prestigious shows as Robert Montgomery Presents, the Kraft Television Theatre, Studio One, and Omnibus. Ludlum never achieved stardom, and he later noted that he was often typecast as either a murderer or a lawyer. He also wrote several plays during those years, which could have been acting vehicles for himself, but none was produced.

Believing that his acting career had stalled, toward the end of the 1950’s he turned to producing plays rather than acting in them. He stated that as a producer he had more freedom of action and more artistic control in what was produced and how it was presented than he had as an actor. In some ways this paralleled his frustrating military career, in that he was required to follow the orders of his superiors.

From his own acting days, and a supporter of the concept of regional theaters, Ludlum was first associated with the North Jersey Playhouse in Fort Lee, New Jersey. He later established and operated the Playhouse-on-the-Mall in a suburban shopping center in Paramus, New Jersey. During the 1960’s Ludlum produced approximately 370 plays, including productions of serious dramas such as William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (c. 1600-1601) and controversial works such as Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1962). However, he claimed that whenever he attempted any serious works they were invariably financial failures: The audiences only wanted what was familiar to them, mainly comedies. As in his earlier experience as an actor, Ludlum discovered that even...

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