Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize Recipient. Eugene O’Neill, an American author, received world-wide acclaim after being awarded the 1936 Nobel Prize in Literature and four Pulitzer Prizes. According to the Nobel Prize committee, he received the coveted award "for the power, honesty and deep-felt emotions of his dramatic works, which embody an original concept of tragedy." He received three nominations for a Nobel Prize candidacy, and two of the three were from Martin Mann, a professor of history of literature and a member of the Swedish Academy. The award presentation was in 1937. Born the youngest of three sons of noted leading-man actor James O’Neill, he was born in a hotel room, spending his early childhood in hotel rooms, on trains, and backstage. The middle brother died at age two. His mother battled physician-prescribed morphine addiction. Both his parents and brother died with difficult deaths within a 39-month period by 1923. His brother died of an alcohol overdose while a patient in an asylum. His early education consisted of three Catholic boarding schools with summer at the family’s river house in New London, Connecticut. He attended Princeton University for one year, before being expelled and starting an adventurous chapter in his life. He took to the sea with ports of call such as Buenos Aires, Liverpool, New York City and Honduras, where he was diagnosed with Malaria fever. He held various jobs, including mining for gold, for a short time. He began to heavily drink alcohol and attempted suicide once. At the age of 24, he returned to New London, where he was a newspaper reporter for a short time. With the diagnosis of tuberculosis, he became an inpatient at the Gaylord Farm Sanitarium in Wallingford, Connecticut for six months during the winter starting in 1912. During his confinement, he became sober for the first time in years, seized the opportunity as a “rebirth” and began to write plays. He wrote about the life he knew: prostitutes, derelicts, lonely sailors, and God’s injustice to man. His Irish Catholicism heritage often brought God into his writings. The only play of merit during this time was the one-act play, “Bound East for Cardiff,” which was written in 1914. After being encouraged by his father, he enrolled in 1914 in George Pierce Baker’s playwriting course at Harvard University, which, although he did not finish the course, led him to the path of writing successfully. In 1916, “Bound East for Cardiff” opened in New York. After a few short plays, in 1920 he wrote a long play “Beyond the Horizon,” which was performed in New York, at first as matinees performances, but since it was successful, the play had regular evening runs. Later in the year, he was awarded his first Pulitzer Prize for Drama. He was awarded a second Pulitzer Prize in 1922 for “Anna Christie” and for the third time in 1928 for “Strange Interlude.” Although he wrote many successful plays, he only saw on the stage two plays between 1932 and his death, “The Iceman Cometh” in 1946 and “A Moon for the Misbegotten in 1952,” which contained a strong autobiographical content. His last play “Long Day’s Journey into Night” was published posthumously in 1956, premiering successfully at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm, Sweden. It received his fourth Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1957and opened on Broadway in New York in November of 1956, receiving a Tony Award for Best Play. Originally, at O’Neill’s request, the play was to be held for 25 years after his death by Random House Publishers, but his wife insisted that it be published earlier. Since the 1950s, the play has had several revival award-winning productions. Three more of his earliest unpublished plays were premiered at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm between 1958 and 1962. Other popular successes, including “The Emperor Jones,” “The Hairy Ape,” “Desire Under the Elms,” “The Great God Brown,” and “Mourning Becomes Electra,” brought him international acclaim. Throughout his life he battled alcohol and unresolved grief, especially his brother’s tragic death, which impacted his writings, and he had several brief episodes of psychological therapy. He married three times and had three children. His Nobel biography was written in first person pronoun of “I.” In a career, which spanned three decades, Eugene O’Neill changed the American theatre forever.
Bio by: Linda Davis