George S.Kaufman

George S.Kaufman : His Life, His Theatre

3.71 (7 ratings by Goodreads)
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A critical biography of the comic genius who, as both a writer and a director, dominated the Broadway comedy theater during the twenties, thirties, and forties relates Kaufman's life and career to the theater of his timeshow more

Product details

  • Hardback | 518 pages
  • 154.94 x 231.14 x 30.48mm | 793.78g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • plates
  • 0195026233
  • 9780195026238

Review Text

It surely might be argued that neither Scott Meredith's rampantly chatty George $. Kaufman and his Friends (1974) nor Howard Teichmann's cozily anecdotal George S. Kaufman (1972) offers the serious critical biography that playwright-director G.S.K. deserves; but this dry-as-dust rerun is equally superficial in its own studious way, and humorless (about George S. Kaufman!) to boot. Perhaps Goldstein (The Political Stage) hoped to illuminate political themes in Kaufman's plays - yet, aside from due notice of Kaufman's repeated attacks on "the self-serving instinct of the businessman," the comedies are treated chiefly as effective gag-contraptions, with Goldstein's detailed critiques continually falling back on the usual Kaufman-comedy cliches (wisecracks "rattled like bursts from a repeater rifle"). As for Kaufman's private life, we're told that mother Nettie's "constant anxiety put permanent scars on her son's psyche," but there's no psychological follow-up as Goldstein benignly reports on Kaufman's restless temperament and his odd domestic setup: impotent with devoted wife Beatrice, both of them sexually busy often and elsewhere. (The slightly rosy approach here, and with other touchy matters, might stem in part from Goldstein's enlistment of close cooperation from Kaufman's adopted daughter Anne.) So what remains, if Goldstein has little new to say about Kaufman's psyche or his talent? What else but the tales which have been told (often with better timing and more show-biz savvy) before: the hectic collaborations with Ferber, Hart, Lardner, Connelly, and Ryskind; the Algonquin Round Table chat; the out-of-town play-doctorings; the scandalous doing with Mary Astor. Goldstein does sometimes provide greater detail, especially about the duller aspects of Kaufman's life - and about his last sad years (and second marriage). But no amount of researched data can bring a Kaufman bio to life when the prose is lumberingly flat, when the theatrical atmosphere is nil, when the jokes themselves don't elicit laughs in the retelling. Stodgy, bland, and orderly - everything G.S.K. wasn't. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Rating details

7 ratings
3.71 out of 5 stars
5 14% (1)
4 57% (4)
3 14% (1)
2 14% (1)
1 0% (0)
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