Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse Papers, 1909-1980


HOWARD LINDSAY was literally a man of the theatre, for he was well known as an actor, director, author, and producer. Born 29 March 1889 in Waterford, New York, he was taken to Atlantic City by his mother when he was three years old. (His parents had separated and later divorced.) When he was thirteen his family moved to Dorchester, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. From 1903 to 1907 he attended Boston Latin School and then entered Harvard on a scholarship.

At one time he seriously considered becoming a Unitarian minister, but upon seeing a catalog of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, he decided he was more interested in the theatre. He studied for six months at the Academy and in 1909 made his acting debut in a road show, Polly of the Circus. Then he went to the West Coast where he worked in silent films, vaudeville, and burlesque. The year 1913 marked the beginning of a five-year association with Margaret Anglin's repertory company where Lindsay worked as a stage manager, director, and actor. During World War I he served as a corporal in France with the 76th Division. For the last five months of his tour he directed for the Brest Stock Company, which provided entertainment for soldiers on their way home from the front. Upon his return to the United States he again worked with Anglin for a brief period; however, their professional association ended in 1919 when she was anti-Equity and he was pro-Equity.

In 1921 he directed and acted in George S. Kaufman's Dulcy, the play in which Lynn Fontanne first made a hit as a star. Other plays in which Lindsay acted were By Your Leave, The '49ers, Life with Father, Life with Mother, One Bright Day, Remains to be Seen, Sweet Nell of Old Drury, Two by Two, and A Young Man's Fancy. Among the plays Lindsay directed during his career are Anything Goes; The Beaux Strategem; By Your Leave; Child of Manhattan; Gay Divorcee; The Good Old Days; Hooray for What?; Oh, Promise Me; The Party's Over; The Poor Nut; The Prescott Proposals; Red, Hot and Blue; She Loves Me Not; A Slight Case of Murder; This Thing Called Love; To the Ladies; Tommy; The Up and Up; and Your Uncle Dudley.

Lindsay had begun writing while he was still in high school. The first produced play in which he shared royalties was Kempney (1922) on which he collaborated with M. C. and Elliott Nugent. Later he wrote Tommy (1927), Your Uncle Dudley (1929), and Oh, Promise Me (1930) in collaboration with Bertrand Robinson. In 1933 he dramatized Edward Hope's novel She Loves Me Not, and in 1934 he first collaborated with Russel Crouse in writing the musical comedy Anything Goes. The following year he wrote A Slight Case of Murder with Damon Runyon. In 1936 he again collaborated with Russel Crouse, and the two men continued their close association throughout their lives.

Lindsay was active in various theatrical organizations. He was vice-president of the Dramatists Guild, president of the Dramatists Play Service, fifth president of The Players, and a founder of the New Dramatists Committee.

Lindsay was married (13 August 1927) to actress Dorothy Stickney with whom he co-starred in Life with Father. He died 11 February 1968.

RUSSEL CROUSE, author and producer, was born 20 February 1893 in Findlay, Ohio. After being educated in the Toledo public schools, at the age of seventeen he became a reporter for the Cincinnati Commercial Tribune. From 1911 to 1917 he held other newspaper jobs. During World War I he was a yeoman second class in the Navy. After the war he was associated with the New York Globe and Evening Mail; from 1924 to 1929 he wrote a daily humor column, “Left at the Post,” in the New York Evening Post. In 1928 he made an eight line debut as an actor in Ward Morehouse's Gentlemen of the Press when he played the role of a newspaperman.

In 1929 he began writing scenarios for short films on newspaper life. In 1933 he collaborated with Corey Ford in Hold Your Horses and two years later he co-authored the musical comedy The Gang's All Here with Morrie Ryskind and Oscar Hammerstein II.

From 1932 to 1937 he was press agent for the New York Theatre Guild. Upon resigning from this position he went to Hollywood where he worked for Paramount and co-authored the screenplay, Mountain Music. Other screenplays were The Big Broadcast of 1938, Artists and Models Abroad (1938), and The Great Victor Herbert (1939).

Books which he wrote include Mr. Currier and Mr. Ives (1930), It Seems Like Yesterday (1931), Murder Won't Out (1932), The American Keepsake (1932), Peter Stuyvesant of Old New York (1954), and Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr (1958).

Crouse's first wife, Alison Smith, died. His second wife was the former Anna Erskine with whom he co-authored the books on Alexander Hamilton and Peter Stuyvesant. Crouse died 3 April 1966.

Lindsay and Crouse first collaborated in 1934 in the adaptation of a text by Guy Bolton and P. G. Wodehouse into the Cole Porter musical, Anything Goes, which was a smash box office hit. In 1936 he collaborated with Lindsay on two musicals, but it was Life with Father (1939) that brought Crouse permanently back to Lindsay and Broadway.

The Lindsay and Crouse association was the longest collaboration on Broadway. Their relationship was very close. They either saw or telephoned each other daily; they shared the same hotel suite on the road. The legend is that when writing, Crouse typed while Lindsay paced the floor. Along with Leland Hayward, Elliott Nugent, and Howard Cullman they owned the Hudson Theatre until they sold it to the National Broadcasting Company.

Their collaborative writing since 1936 includes the musicals Red, Hot, and Blue (1936) and Hooray for What? (1937); a dramatization of Clarence Day, Jr.'s Life with Father, which ran for seven years without a break (1939); Strip for Action (1942); the Pulitzer Prize winner, State of the Union (1945); Life with Mother (1948); Call Me Madam (1950); Remains to be Seen (1951); The Prescott Proposals (1953); Happy Hunting and The Great Sebastians (1956); and The Sound of Music and Tall Story (1959). Many of these plays were made into motion pictures. In addition they wrote the script for the play Mr. President with music and lyrics by Irving Berlin.

Lindsay and Crouse became producers in 1940 with the presentation of the highly successful Arsenic and Old Lace by Joseph O. Kesselring. This was followed by The Hasty Heart by John Patrick (1944), Detective Story by Sidney Kingsley (1949), One Bright Day by Sigmund Miller (1952), and The Great Sebastians by themselves (1955).

Lindsay and Crouse received many awards, among them the Pulitzer Prize (1946) for State of the Union; the Antoinette Perry Award (1958/59) for distinguished achievement in the theatre over a period of 25 years; the Antoinette Perry Award (1959/60) for the libretto of The Sound of Music; the Roi Cooper Mergrue Award from the Dramatists Guild (1940); and the Theatre Club Award (1940) for the best American play of the season, Life with Father. In addition Lindsay received an honorary M.A. from Bowdoin College, and Crouse, an honorary D.F.S. from Ohio Wesleyan.