Portrait of O'Neill by Alice Boughton
|Born||Eugene Gladstone O'Neill|
October 16, 1888
New York City, U.S.
|Died||November 27, 1953 65) (aged|
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Notable awards|| Nobel Prize in Literature (1936)|
Pulitzer Prize for Drama (1920, 1922, 1928, 1957)
(m. 1909;div. 1912)
(m. 1918;div. 1929)
Eugene Gladstone O'Neill (October 16, 1888 – November 27, 1953) was an American playwright and Nobel laureate in literature. His poetically titled plays were among the first to introduce into U.S. drama techniques of realism earlier associated with Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, and Swedish playwright August Strindberg. The tragedy Long Day's Journey into Night is often numbered on the short list of the finest U.S. plays in the 20th century, alongside Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire and Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman .
O'Neill's plays were among the first to include speeches in American English vernacular and involve characters on the fringes of society. They struggle to maintain their hopes and aspirations, but ultimately slide into disillusionment and despair. Of his very few comedies, only one is well-known ( Ah, Wilderness! ).Nearly all of his other plays involve some degree of tragedy and personal pessimism.
O'Neill was born in a hotel, the Barrett House, at Broadway and 43rd Street, on what was then Longacre Square (now Times Square).A commemorative plaque was first dedicated there in 1957. The site is now occupied by 1500 Broadway, which houses offices, shops and the ABC Studios.
He was the son of Irish immigrant actor James O'Neill and Mary Ellen Quinlan, who was also of Irish descent. His father suffered from alcoholism; his mother from an addiction to morphine, prescribed to relieve the pains of the difficult birth of her third son, Eugene.Because his father was often on tour with a theatrical company, accompanied by Eugene's mother, in 1895 O'Neill was sent to St. Aloysius Academy for Boys, a Catholic boarding school in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. In 1900, he became a day student at the De La Salle Institute on 59th Street in (Manhattan).
The O'Neill family reunited for summers at the Monte Cristo Cottage in New London, Connecticut. He also briefly attended Betts Academy in Stamford.He attended Princeton University for one year. Accounts vary as to why he left. He may have been dropped for attending too few classes, been suspended for "conduct code violations," or "for breaking a window", or according to a more concrete but possibly apocryphal account, because he threw "a beer bottle into the window of Professor Woodrow Wilson", the future president of the United States.
O'Neill spent several years at sea, during which he suffered from depression and alcoholism. Despite this, he had a deep love for the sea and it became a prominent theme in many of his plays, several of which are set on board ships like those on which he worked. O'Neill joined the Marine Transport Workers Union of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), which was fighting for improved living conditions for the working class using quick 'on the job' direct action.O'Neill's parents and elder brother Jamie (who drank himself to death at the age of 45) died within three years of one another, not long after he had begun to make his mark in the theater.
After his experience in 1912–13 at a sanatorium where he was recovering from tuberculosis, he decided to devote himself full-time to writing plays (the events immediately prior to going to the sanatorium are dramatized in his masterpiece, Long Day's Journey into Night ).O'Neill had previously been employed by the New London Telegraph, writing poetry as well as reporting. In the fall of 1914, he entered Harvard University to attend a course in dramatic technique given by Professor George Baker. He left after one year.
During the 1910s O'Neill was a regular on the Greenwich Village literary scene, where he also befriended many radicals, most notably Communist Labor Party of America founder John Reed. O'Neill also had a brief romantic relationship with Reed's wife, writer Louise Bryant.O'Neill was portrayed by Jack Nicholson in the 1981 film Reds , about the life of John Reed; Louise Bryant was portrayed by Diane Keaton. His involvement with the Provincetown Players began in mid-1916. Terry Carlin reported that O'Neill arrived for the summer in Provincetown with "a trunk full of plays.", but this was an exaggeration. Susan Glaspell describes a reading of Bound East for Cardiff that took place in the living room of Glaspell and her husband George Cram Cook's home on Commercial Street, adjacent to the wharf (pictured) that was used by the Players for their theater: "So Gene took Bound East for Cardiff out of his trunk, and Freddie Burt read it to us, Gene staying out in the dining-room while reading went on. He was not left alone in the dining-room when the reading had finished." The Provincetown Players performed many of O'Neill's early works in their theaters both in Provincetown and on MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village. Some of these early plays, such as The Emperor Jones, began downtown and then moved to Broadway.
In an early one-act play, The Web. written in 1913, O'Neill first explored the darker themes that he later thrived on. Here he focused on the brothel world and the lives of prostitutes, which also play a role in some fourteen of his later plays.In particular, he memorably included the birth of an infant into the world of prostitution. At the time, such themes constituted a huge innovation, as these sides of life had never before been presented with such success.
O'Neill's first published play, Beyond the Horizon , opened on Broadway in 1920 to great acclaim, and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. His first major hit was The Emperor Jones , which ran on Broadway in 1920 and obliquely commented on the U.S. occupation of Haiti that was a topic of debate in that year's presidential election. [ citation needed ]His best-known plays include Anna Christie (Pulitzer Prize 1922), Desire Under the Elms (1924), Strange Interlude (Pulitzer Prize 1928), Mourning Becomes Electra (1931), and his only well-known comedy, Ah, Wilderness! , a wistful re-imagining of his youth as he wished it had been. In 1936 he received the Nobel Prize for Literature after he had been nominated that year by Henrik Schück, member of the Swedish Academy. After a ten-year pause, O'Neill's now-renowned play The Iceman Cometh was produced in 1946. The following year's A Moon for the Misbegotten failed, and it was decades before coming to be considered as among his best works.
He was also part of the modern movement to partially revive the classical heroic mask from ancient Greek theatre and Japanese Noh theatre in some of his plays, such as The Great God Brown and Lazarus Laughed.
O'Neill was married to Kathleen Jenkins from October 2, 1909 to 1912, during which time they had one son, Eugene O'Neill, Jr. (1910–1950). In 1917, O'Neill met Agnes Boulton, a successful writer of commercial fiction, and they married on April 12, 1918. They lived in a home owned by her parents in Point Pleasant, New Jersey, after their marriage.The years of their marriage—during which the couple lived in Connecticut and Bermuda and had two children, Shane and Oona—are described vividly in her 1958 memoir Part of a Long Story. They divorced in 1929, after O'Neill abandoned Boulton and the children for the actress Carlotta Monterey (born San Francisco, California, December 28, 1888; died Westwood, New Jersey, November 18, 1970). O'Neill and Carlotta married less than a month after he officially divorced his previous wife.
In 1929, O'Neill and Monterey moved to the Loire Valley in central France, where they lived in the Château du Plessis in Saint-Antoine-du-Rocher, Indre-et-Loire. During the early 1930s they returned to the United States and lived in Sea Island, Georgia, at a house called Casa Genotta . He moved to Danville, California in 1937 and lived there until 1944. His house there, Tao House, is today the Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site.
In their first years together, Monterey organized O'Neill's life, enabling him to devote himself to writing. She later became addicted to potassium bromide, and the marriage deteriorated, resulting in a number of separations, although they never divorced.
In 1943, O'Neill disowned his daughter Oona for marrying the English actor, director, and producer Charlie Chaplin when she was 18 and Chaplin was 54. He never saw Oona again.
He also had distant relationships with his sons. Eugene O'Neill Jr., a Yale classicist, suffered from alcoholism and committed suicide in 1950 at the age of 40. Shane O'Neill became a heroin addict and moved into the family home in Bermuda, Spithead, with his new wife, where he supported himself by selling off the furnishings. He was disowned by his father before also committing suicide (by jumping out of a window) a number of years later. Oona ultimately inherited Spithead and the connected estate (subsequently known as the Chaplin Estate).In 1950 O'Neill joined The Lambs, the famed theater club.
|Child||Date of birth||Date of death|
|Eugene O'Neill Jr.||5/5/1910||9/25/1950|
After suffering from multiple health problems (including depression and alcoholism) over many years, O'Neill ultimately faced a severe Parkinsons-like tremor in his hands which made it impossible for him to write during the last 10 years of his life; he had tried using dictation but found himself unable to compose in that way.[ citation needed ] While at Tao House, O'Neill had intended to write a cycle of 11 plays chronicling an American family since the 1800s.[ citation needed ] Only two of these, A Touch of the Poet and More Stately Mansions , were ever completed. As his health worsened, O'Neill lost inspiration for the project and wrote three largely autobiographical plays, The Iceman Cometh , Long Day's Journey into Night , and A Moon for the Misbegotten . He managed to complete Moon for the Misbegotten in 1943, just before leaving Tao House and losing his ability to write. Drafts of many other uncompleted plays were destroyed by Carlotta at Eugene's request.[ citation needed ]
O'Neill died in Room 401 of the Sheraton Hotel (now Boston University's Kilachand Hall) on Bay State Road in Boston, on November 27, 1953, at the age of 65. As he was dying, he whispered his last words: "I knew it. I knew it. Born in a hotel room and died in a hotel room."
Dr. Harry Kozol, the prosecution's lead expert in the Patty Hearst trial, treated O'Neill during these last years of illness.He also was present for O'Neill's death and announced the fact to the public.
O'Neill is interred in the Forest Hills Cemetery in Boston's Jamaica Plain neighborhood.
In 1956 Carlotta arranged for his autobiographical play Long Day's Journey into Night to be published, although his written instructions had stipulated that it not be made public until 25 years after his death. It was produced on stage to tremendous critical acclaim and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1957.This last play is widely considered to be his finest. Other posthumously-published works include A Touch of the Poet (1958) and More Stately Mansions (1967).
In 1967, the United States Postal Service honored O'Neill with a Prominent Americans series (1965–1978) $1 postage stamp.
Only in 2000 was it discovered that he died of cerebellar cortical atrophy, a rare form of brain deterioration unrelated to either alcohol use or Parkinson's disease.
In Warren Beatty's 1981 film Reds , O'Neill is portrayed by Jack Nicholson, who was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance.
George C. White founded the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center in Waterford, Connecticut in 1964.
Eugene O'Neill is a member of the American Theater Hall of Fame.
O'Neill is referenced by Upton Sinclair in The Cup of Fury (1956), by J.K. Simmons' character in Whiplash (2014), and by Tony Stark in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), specifically Long Day's Journey into Night.
O’Neill is referred to in Moss Hart’s 1959 book Act One , later a Broadway play.
O'Neill's home in New London, Monte Cristo Cottage, was made a National Historic Landmark in 1971. His home in Danville, California, near San Francisco, was preserved as the Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site in 1976.
Connecticut College maintains the Louis Sheaffer Collection, consisting of material collected by the O'Neill biographer. The principal collection of O'Neill papers is at Yale University. The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Connecticut fosters the development of new plays under his name.
There is also a theatre in New York City named after him located at 230 West 49th Street in midtown-Manhattan. The Eugene O'Neill Theatre has housed musicals and plays such as Yentl , Annie , Grease , M. Butterfly , Spring Awakening , and The Book of Mormon .
The Glencairn Plays, all of which feature characters on the fictional ship Glencairn—filmed together as The Long Voyage Home :
Other one-act plays include:
The Emperor Jones is a 1920 play by American dramatist Eugene O'Neill that tells the tale of Brutus Jones, a resourceful, self-assured African American and a former Pullman porter, who kills another black man in a dice game, is jailed, and later escapes to a small, backward Caribbean island where he sets himself up as emperor. The play recounts his story in flashbacks as Brutus makes his way through the jungle in an attempt to escape former subjects who have rebelled against him.
Long Day's Journey into Night is a tragedy play in four acts written by American playwright Eugene O'Neill in 1941–42, first published in 1956. The play is widely considered to be his magnum opus and one of the finest American plays of the 20th century. It premiered in Sweden in February 1956 and then opened on Broadway in November 1956, winning the Tony Award for Best Play.
Susan Keating Glaspell was an American playwright, novelist, journalist and actress. With her husband George Cram Cook, she founded the Provincetown Players, the first modern American theatre company.
The Provincetown Players was a collective of artists, writers, intellectuals, and amateur theater enthusiasts. Under the leadership of the husband and wife team of George Cram “Jig” Cook and Susan Glaspell from Iowa, the Players produced two seasons in Provincetown, Massachusetts and six seasons in New York City, between 1916 and 1922. The company's founding has been called "the most important innovative moment in American theatre." Its productions helped launch the careers of Eugene O'Neill and Susan Glaspell, and ushered American theatre into the Modern era.
Oona O'Neill Chaplin, Lady Chaplin was an actress who was the daughter of American playwright Eugene O'Neill and English-born writer Agnes Boulton, and the fourth and last wife of English actor and filmmaker Charlie Chaplin.
José Benjamín Quintero was a Panamanian theatre director, producer and pedagogue best known for his interpretations of the works of Eugene O'Neill.
Agnes Boulton was a British-born American pulp magazine writer in the 1910s, later the wife of Eugene O'Neill.
Charles Sidney Gilpin was one of the most highly regarded stage actors of the 1920s. He played in critical debuts in New York City: the 1919 premier of John Drinkwater's Abraham Lincoln and the lead role of Brutus Jones in the 1920 premiere of Eugene O'Neill's The Emperor Jones, also touring with the play. In 1920, he was the first black American to receive The Drama League's annual award as one of the 10 people who had done the most that year for American theatre.
The Eugene O'Neill Award is one of Sweden's finest awards for stage actors. It is a scholarship for actors at the Swedish theater. It has been awarded annually by the Royal Dramatic Theatre since 1956.
As the new medium of cinema was beginning to replace theatre as a source of large-scale spectacle, the Little Theatre Movement developed in the United States around 1912. The Little Theatre Movement served to provide experimental centers for the dramatic arts, free from the standard production mechanisms used in prominent commercial theatres. In several large cities, beginning with Chicago, Boston, Seattle, and Detroit, companies formed to produce more intimate, non-commercial, non-profit-centered, and reform-minded entertainments.
George Cram Cook or Jig Cook was an American theatre producer, director, playwright, novelist, poet, and university professor. Believing it was his personal mission to inspire others, Cook led the founding of the Provincetown Players on Cape Cod in 1915; their "creative collective" was considered the first modern American theatre company. During his seven-year tenure with the group, Cook oversaw the production of nearly one-hundred new plays by fifty American playwrights. He is particularly remembered for producing the first plays of Eugene O'Neill, along with those of Cook's wife Susan Glaspell, and several other noted writers.
Beyond the Horizon is a play written by American playwright Eugene O'Neill. Although he first copyrighted the text in June 1918, O'Neill continued to revise the play throughout the rehearsals for its 1920 premiere. His first full-length work to be staged, Beyond the Horizon won the 1920 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Carlotta Monterey was an American stage and film actress. She was the third and final wife of playwright Eugene O'Neill.
The Provincetown Playhouse is a historic theatre at 133 MacDougal Street between West 3rd and West 4th Streets in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. It is named for the Provincetown Players, who converted the former stable and wine-bottling plant into a theater in 1918. The original Players included George Cram Cook, Susan Glaspell, Eugene O'Neill, John Reed, Louise Bryant, Floyd Dell, Ida Rauh, Edna St. Vincent Millay and Djuna Barnes. Paul Robeson performed at the theatre, and E. E. Cummings had his play "Him" performed in the building. Ann Harding, Bette Davis, Claudette Colbert made their New York stage debuts in the facility.
Stephen Kennedy Murphy is a stage director of theatre and opera. He is the founding artistic director of the Eugene O'Neill Studio at Yale and the artistic director of The Playwrights Theater of New York, an organization that is producing O'Neill's complete canon chronologically on stage and on screen. The series has a completion date of December 10, 2036, the 100th anniversary of O'Neill winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Barbara Gelb was an American author, playwright, and journalist. She, along with her husband Arthur, wrote three biographies of the Nobel laureate playwright Eugene O'Neill.
Virgil Geddes (1897–1989) was an American playwright.
Louis Sheaffer was an American journalist for the Brooklyn Eagle between 1934 and 1955. After the newspaper's closure in 1955, Sheaffer wrote a two part biography on Eugene O'Neill and released the first volume O'Neill: Son and Playwright in 1968. The final part of Sheaffer's biography on O'Neill, titled O'Neill: Son and Artist, was awarded the 1974 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography and nominated for the 1974 National Book Award for Biography. Apart from the Pulitzer Prize, Sheaffer was a three-time Guggenheim Fellowship recipient between the 1950s and 1960s.
Mary Welch was an American stage actress on Broadway.
Jasper Deeter (1893–1972) was an American-born stage and film actor, stage director, and founder of Hedgerow Theatre in Rose Valley, Pennsylvania, one of the first regional repertory theatres in the United States.
|Awards and achievements|
Warren S. Stone
| Cover of Time magazine |
March 17, 1924