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Robert E Sherwood Playwright Peace & War

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One of the Nation's First Film Critics, an acclaimed speechwriter on his own and for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a propagandist during World War II, and a leading producer on Broadway, Robert E. Sherwood scripted some of the most popular plays and films of his day. His work brought him four Pulitzer Prizes and an Oscar. In his personal life, however, he was driven by a deep conviction that war was a societal evil that must be eradicated and human rights a moral responsibility that all governments should protect. At times, his belief in pacifism and his commitment to defending freedom and justice came into conflict with each other, causing frustration and emotional trauma which found their way into his writings and actions.

In this compelling book, Harriet Hyman Alonso unravels Sherwood's inner struggle and portrays his political journey. Relying largely on his letters, diaries, plays, films, essays, and biography of Roosevelt and Harry Hopkins, she traces Sherwood's obsession with the world of politics and its effects on his life and art, from his experience as a soldier in World War I to the Cold War. She also describes his participation in the Algonquin Round Table, his friendships and working relationships with such notables as Alfred Lunt, Lynn Fontanne, Edna Ferber, Spencer Tracy, Harry Hopkins, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, his two marriages and uneasy relationship with his daughter, and his leadership role in the Broadway community.

Alonso brings together history, theater and film studies, and peace studies in this interdisciplinary political biography. In the process, she illuminates major currents in U.S. foreign policy, society, and culture from 1896 to 1955-the yearsof the remarkable life of Robert E. Sherwood.

About the Author:
Harriet Hyman Alonso is professor of history at The City College of New York, CUNY, where she currently serves as chair of the Department of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the Center for Worker Education

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Editorial Reviews

American Theatre
Alonso's highly readable Robert E. Sherwood: The Playwright in Peace and War stands out for its timely themes: politics and international conflict. . . . Alonso . . . is particularly concerned with the swelling and ebbing of Sherwood's pacifism. Turned anti-military by World War I (he was gassed in the French trenches), the playwright experiences a sea change in opinion during the rise of fascism. Fortunately, Alonso's attention to this particular issue doesn't blinker the wider view: She channels her pacifism-related expertise into a comprehensive and authoritative consideration of Sherwoods's life as a whole.
Peace & Change
A valuable book for the American historian, peace history scholar, or theater historian. . . .Harriet Hyman Alonso's devotion to her subject and dogged research is evidenced in the text and thorough bibliography. Her archival work is detailed and flawless. Her seamless intertwining of the historical and the theatrical makes this work an invaluable interdisciplinary contribution.
The Journal of American History
This is a richly textured treatment of one of America's most honored yet long-forgotten playwrights, Robert E. Sherwood, who also helped provide a model of the public intellectual.
Theatre Journal
From the point of view of theatre or cultural studies, this book is invaluable. . . .This is an engaging look at a playwright too often forgotten in theatre studies. Alonso's examination of Sherwood's family history and marriage and her look at his World War I experiences provide a many-layered context to the work of this prolific playwright and author. The details it provides about Sherwood and his work with the Playwrights' Company and his collaborations with Lunt and Fontaine make for excellent theatre history. It would make a good addition to the libarary of anyone interested in twentieth-century American theatre. -- Michael A. Cramer, Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY
Library Journal

Robert E. Sherwood came from an illustrious family (his father founded the Harvard Lampoon) but himself won Pulitzers and an Oscar; wrote plays, films, and presidential speeches; sat at the Algonquin Round Table with Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley; and was a political adviser with a strong influence on foreign policy. In an almost hyperbolic existence, Sherwood weaved in and out of American history as much as Forrest Gump. His involvement was not accidental; with convictions of social justice, he exhibited a desire for pacifism in his work, and the often indirect (or self-contradictory) road to achieving peace was a contention he dealt with throughout his life. Alonso (history, City Coll., CUNY; Growing Up Abolitionist: The Story of the Garrison Children), juggling multiple social and cultural story lines, communicates extensive biographical research with great readability. She introduces the reader to an American experience with an understanding and familiarity that illuminates the subject, the context, and, ultimately, the story. Academic in design, this is also an important purchase for large public libraries. Highly recommended.
—Ben Malczewski

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781558496194
  • Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press
  • Publication date: 12/5/2007
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Table of Contents

Act 1
Prologue     3
Being an Emmet and a Sherwood     7
Born to Be a Ham     21
From Soldier to Pacifist     36
Life after the War     63
Writing Plays for Peace     94
Marriage, Divorce, and The Petrified Forest     135
Act 2
From Pacifist to Soldier     167
Sherwood and Roosevelt     218
Changing the Message     267
The Message Is Lost     297
Epilogue     324
Notes     329
Bibliography     367
Acknowledgments     381
Index     383
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