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George Abbott 1887-1995
 


Country : Forestville, New York
Profession : Film director, Producer, Playwright
Date of birth : 1887-06-25
Date of death : 1995-01-31
Cause of Death : Stroke

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George_Francis_Abbott

George Francis Abbott (25 June 1887 - 31 January 1995) was an American theater producer and director, playwright, screenwriter, and film director and producer whose career spanned more than seven decades.

 

Biography

Early years

Abbott was born in Forestville, New York, near the town of Salamanca, which twice elected his father mayor. In 1898 his family moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming, where he attended Kearney Military Academy. Within a few years his family returned to New York, and he graduated from Hamburg High School in 1907. Four years later he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Rochester, where he wrote his first play, Perfectly Harmless, for the University Dramatic Club.

Abbott then went to Harvard University where he studied playwriting under George Pierce Baker. Under his tutelage he wrote The Head of the Family, which was performed at the Harvard Dramatic Club in 1912. He then worked for a year as assistant stage manager at the Bijou Theatre in Boston where his play The Man in the Manhole won a contest.

 

Career

Abbott first appeared as an actor on Broadway in The Misleading Lady in 1913. While acting in several plays in New York City he began to write, with his first successful play being The Fall Guy (1925). He worked in Hollywood as a writer and director while continuing with his theater work. Among those who crossed paths with Abbott early in their careers are Desi Arnaz, Gene Tierney, Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Leonard Bernstein, Jule Styne, Bob Fosse, Stephen Sondheim, John Kander, Fred Ebb, and Liza Minnelli.

Abbott acquired a reputation as an astute "show doctor." He frequently was called upon to supervise changes when a show was having difficulties in tryouts or previews prior to its Broadway opening. He was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.

 

Personal life

Abbott married his first wife Ednah Levis in 1914. They had a daughter Judith, who became an actress and married actor Tom Ewell in 1946. Ednah died in 1930 and Abbott married Mary Sinclair in April 1946; they divorced in 1951. On 21 November 1983, five months past his 96th birthday, he married Joy Valderrama.

In 1965, the 54th Street Theatre was rechristened the George Abbott Theater in his honor. The building was demolished in 1970. New York's George Abbott Way, the section of West 45th Street northwest of Times Square, is also named in his honour.

Abbott died of a stroke in Miami Beach, four months and three weeks short of his 108th birthday. The New York Times obituary read, "Mrs. Abbott said that a week and a half before his death he was dictating revisions to the second act of Pajama Game with a revival in mind. Last year, at a mere 106 years old, he walked down the aisle on opening night of the Damn Yankees revival and received a standing ovation. He was heard saying to his companion, 'There must be somebody important here.'"

 

 

Work

Stage

  • 1915: The Yeomen of the Guard (actor)
  • 1918: Daddies (actor)
  • 1920: The Broken Wing (actor)
  • 1923: Zander the Great (actor)
  • 1925: The Fall Guy (playwright)
  • 1926: Love 'em and Leave 'em (playwright, director)
  • 1926: Chicago (director)
  • 1926: Broadway (playwright, director)
  • 1928: Gentlemen of the Press (director)
  • 1932: Lilly Turner (playwright, director, producer)
  • 1932: Twentieth Century (director, producer)
  • 1935: Jumbo (director)
  • 1936: On Your Toes (book)
  • 1937: Room Service (director, producer)
  • 1938: The Boys from Syracuse (book, director, producer)
  • 1939: Too Many Girls (director, producer)
  • 1940: Pal Joey (director, producer)
  • 1944: On the Town (director)
  • 1947: High Button Shoes (director)
  • 1948: Where's Charley? (book, director)
  • 1949: Mrs. Gibbons' Boys (producer, director)
  • 1950: Call Me Madam (director)
  • 1951: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (book, director, producer)
  • 1953: Wonderful Town (director)
  • 1954: The Pajama Game (book, director)
  • 1955: Damn Yankees (book, director)
  • 1957: New Girl in Town (book, director)
  • 1959: Once Upon a Mattress (director)
  • 1959: Fiorello! (book, director)
  • 1960: Tenderloin (book, director)
  • 1962: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (director)
  • 1964: Fade Out - Fade In (director)
  • 1965: Flora, The Red Menace (book, director)
  • 1965: Anya (book, director)
  • 1967: How Now, Dow Jones (director)
  • 1968: The Education of Hyman Kaplan (director)
  • 1976: Music Is (book, director)

 

 

Filmography

Year

Title

Credit

1918

The Imposter

Writer; actor (Lem)

1926

Love 'Em and Leave 'Em

Writer

1927

Hills of Peril

Playwright, A Holy Terror

1928

Four Walls

Playwright; writer

1929

Coquette

Playwright

1929

The Carnival Man

Director

1929

Broadway

Playwright; writer

1929

The Bishop's Candlesticks

Director

1929

Why Bring That Up?

Writer; director

1929

The Saturday Night Kid

Playwright, Love 'Em and Leave 'Em

1929

Night Parade

Playwright, Ringside

1929

Halfway to Heaven

Director; writer

1930

El Dios del mar

Writer

1930

All Quiet on the Western Front

Writer

1930

The Fall Guy

Playwright

1930

Manslaughter

Director; writer

1930

The Sea God

Director; writer

1931

Der Sprung ins Nichts

Writer

1931

Stolen Heaven

Director; writer

1931

La Incorregible

Playwright, Manslaughter

1931

Sombras del circo

Playwright, Halfway to Heaven

1931

À mi-chemin du ciel

Playwright, Halfway to Heaven

1931

Secrets of a Secretary

Director; writer

1931

My Sin

Director; writer

1931

The Cheat

Director

1932

Halvvägs till himlen

Writer

1932

Those We Love

Playwright

1933

Lilly Turner

Playwright

1934

Heat Lightning

Playwright

1934

Straight Is the Way

Playwright, Four Walls

1936

Three Men on a Horse

Playwright

1938

Broadway

Writer

1939

On Your Toes

Playwright

1940

Too Many Girls

Director

1940

The Boys from Syracuse

Playwright

1941

Highway West

Playwright, Heat Lightning

1942

Broadway

Playwright

1947

Beat the Band

Playwright

  • 1918: The Imposter (actor, director)
  • 1929: Coquette (screenwriter)
  • 1929: Why Bring That Up? (director, producer)
  • 1930: All Quiet on the Western Front (screenwriter)
  • 1930: Manslaughter (director, screenwriter)
  • 1931: Secrets of a Secretary (director, producer)
  • 1938: Room Service (producer)
  • 1945: Kiss and Tell (producer)
  • 1957: The Pajama Game (screenwriter, director, producer)
  • 1958: Damn Yankees (screenwriter, director, producer)

Awards and nominations

Awards

  • 1955 Tony Award for Best Musical – The Pajama Game
  • 1956 Tony Award for Best Musical – Damn Yankees
  • 1960 Pulitzer Prize for Drama – Fiorello!
  • 1960 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical – Fiorello!
  • 1960 Tony Award for Best Musical – Fiorello!
  • 1963 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical – A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
  • 1976 Special Tony Award: The Lawrence Langer Award
  • 1982 Kennedy Center Honors
  • 1983 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Musical – On Your Toes
  • 1987 Special Tony Award on the occasion of his 100th birthday

Nominations

  • 1930 Academy Award for Best Achievement in Writing – All Quiet on the Western Front
  • 1958 Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written American Musical – Damn Yankees
  • 1958 Tony Award for Best Musical – New Girl in Town
  • 1958 Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written American Musical – The Pajama Game
  • 1959 Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures – Damn Yankees
  • 1963 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play – Never Too Late
  • 1968 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical – How Now, Dow Jones

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