Playwright, Director, Producer, Drama Critic, and Pulitzer Prize Winner. He won the 1932 Pulitzer Prize for his musical "Of Thee I Sing" (with Morrie Ryskind and Ira Gershwin) and the 1937 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play "You Can't Take It With You" (with Moss Hart). Born to Jewish parents in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he attended law school briefly upon graduating from high school in 1907 but dropped out after only three months and took on a number of odd jobs before becoming a journalist and drama critic. From 1917 to 1930 he was the drama editor for The New York Times. His Broadway debut was September 4, 1918 at the Knickerbocker Theatre, with the premiere of the melodrama "Someone in the House," which he coauthored with Walter C. Percival, based on a magazine story written by Larry Evans. In every Broadway season from 1921 through 1958, there was a play written or directed by him. Kaufman wrote only one play alone, The Butter and Egg Man in 1925. With Marc Connelly, he wrote "Merton of the Movies," "Dulcy," and "Beggar on Horseback," and with Ring Lardner he wrote "June Moon." With Edna Ferber he wrote "The Royal Family," "Dinner at Eight," and "Stage Door." With John P. Marquand he wrote a stage adaptation of Marquand's novel "The Late George Apley" and with Howard Teichmann he wrote "The Solid Gold Cadillac." In addition to "You Can't Take It With You, he collaborated with Moss Hart in the 1930s Broadway productions "Once in a Lifetime" (in which he also performed), "Merrily We Roll Along," and "The Man Who Came to Dinner." He wrote only one play alone, "The Butter and Egg Man" (1925). Additionally, he collaborated on a number of Broadway musicals, the most successful being "The Cocoanuts" (1925, with Irving Berlin) and "Animal Crackers" (1928, with Morrie Ryskind, Bert Kalmar, and Harry Ruby), that were specifically crafted for the Marx Brothers, who were starting to become famous enough to be signed to a Hollywood contract. He was interested in humor coming from political situations and collaborated with Morrie Ryskind and Ira Gershwin on the hit musical "Of Thee I Sing," which won the 1932 Pulitzer Prize, the first musical so honored. He followed it up with the sequel "Let 'Em Eat Cake," as well as one troubled but eventually successful satire that had several incarnations, "Strike Up the Band." With Moss Hart, he also wrote the book to "I'd Rather Be Right" (1937), a musical starring George M. Cohan as Franklin Delano Roosevelt (the US President at the time), with songs by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. He also co-wrote the 1935 comedy-drama "First Lady." In 1945 he adapted Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera "H.M.S. Pinafore" into "Hollywood Pinafore," in which he directed. He also directed the original or revival stage productions of many plays and musicals, including "The Front Page" (1928), John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" (1937), "My Sister Eileen" (1940), and Peter Ustinov's "Romanoff and Juliet" (1957), to name a few. In 1951 he won the Tony Award as Best Director, for the musical "Guys and Dolls." Many of his plays were adapted into Hollywood films, including "Dinner At Eight" (1933), "Stage Door" (1937, almost completely rewritten for the film version), and "You Can't Take It With You,, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1938. He also occasionally wrote directly for the movies, most significantly the screenplay for "A Night at the Opera" (1935, for the Marx Brothers). His only credit as a film director was "The Senator Was Indiscreet" (1947) starring William Powell. He appeared as a panelist on the 1949-1954 CBS television series show "This Is Show Business." On the December 21, 1952, Christmas episode of the show that was telecast live, he made a controversial statement amid public outcry, "Let's make this one program on which no one sings 'Silent Night'." The networks banned him for more than a year before allowing him to appear again. He was married to Beatrice Bakrow from 1917 until her death in 1945. He was then married to actress Leueen MacGrath from 1949 until their divorce in 1957, with whom he collaborated on a number of plays. He died in New York City, New York at the age of 71. He was portrayed by actor Jason Robards in the 1963 film "Act One" and by actor David Thornton in the 1994 film "Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle."
Bio by: William Bjornstad