George S. Kaufman Born

KaufmanToday sees the birthday of the playwright George S. Kaufman, who co-wrote more hit plays than anyone else in the history of Broadway and one play and musical that he wrote won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama; You Can’t Take It With You (1937, with Moss Hart), and Of Thee I Sing (1932, with Morrie Ryskind and Ira Gershwin).

Kaufman for all his genius had his quirks, a terrible case of hypochondria being among them.  This he inherited from his Mother who wouldn’t let him play with other children for fear of germs and she wouldn’t let him drink milk either.  The only beverage he was ever allowed to drink was boiled water.  This led to him having a morbid fear of dying in his sleep that was so severe he often wouldn’t sleep for days on end; he was also terrified of being touched and he never shook hands.  Uncomfortable with any expression of affection between human beings, Kaufman was surprisingly married twice.

Despite all his various foibles, partners that worked with the man through the years all said that he was a meticulous polisher and rewriter and that he was never satisfied with a script even up to the last minute.  On the most triumphant of opening nights, he could always be found backstage, pale and terrified that the play would be a flop.


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