GEORGE S. KAUFMAN: An Intimate Portrait by Howard Teichmann

GEORGE S. KAUFMAN: An Intimate Portrait

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George S. Kaufman was, like the theater he wrote for and directed, one of the great fabulous invalids and this is a warm, rumpled shirtsleeves portrait of the man who was haunted by fear and the everpresent possibility of failure (""We got mixed notices. They were good and bad""), spooked by death (""Epitaph for a headwaiter: God caught his eye""), driven to write both compulsively and cathartically, and endowed with a Once-in-a-Lifetime wit. Teichmann was Kaufman's collaborator on one of the later plays -- Kaufman wrote 45 in 37 years of which 27 were hits; Teichmann also saw him daily for the last, rather sad ten years of his life crimped by genuine illness (strokes) alone with all those imaginary maladies and the dissolution of a May-September marriage. Kaufman began as a Washington columnist (President ""Wilson's mind, as has been the custom, will be closed all day Sunday""), became the second-string drama critic for the Times (""I saw the play at a disadvantage. . . the curtain was up"") and went on to participate more directly in the theater when he wasn't playing cards -- brilliantly with Goren, Culbertson, et al., or indulging in casual anonymous sex (except for the Mary Astor scandal) after his marriage became a very curious but devoted arrangement. Kaufman, a difficult man, doesn't have the benign lovability of his compeer Benchley, or the frayed allure of Dorothy Parker, whom he held his own with at that Round Table which might have given this more of a self-starting interest: but the sparkling wall-to-wall witticisms that line the book from start to finish should pave its way toward success, beginning with its Literary Guild selection.

Pub Date: June 15th, 1972
Publisher: Atheneum