George Abbott


Director

About

Also Known As
George Francis Abbott
Birth Place
Forestville, New York, USA
Born
June 25, 1887
Died
January 31, 1995
Cause of Death
Stroke

Biography

At 96, he became a newlywed - albeit for the third time - and directed a Broadway show; at 102, he was writing a libretto for an off-Broadway production of "Frankenstein." In a career that spanned nine decades, few things, least of all age, slowed the producer, writer, director and sometime actor George Abbott until his death at the age of 107. Throughout his life, he had been known as "...

Family & Companions

Mary Sinclair
Wife
Actor, designer. Married March 27, 1946; divorced August 17, 1951.
Maureen Stapleton
Companion
Actor. Dated in 1970s.
Joy Abbott
Wife
Married November 22, 1983 when she was 52 and he was 96; survived him.

Bibliography

"Mister Abbott"
George Abbott (1963)

Biography

At 96, he became a newlywed - albeit for the third time - and directed a Broadway show; at 102, he was writing a libretto for an off-Broadway production of "Frankenstein." In a career that spanned nine decades, few things, least of all age, slowed the producer, writer, director and sometime actor George Abbott until his death at the age of 107. Throughout his life, he had been known as "Mr. Broadway" due to his influence on the stage there, but he also wrote and directed a number of films as well. From his first hit on the stage, "Broadway" (1926) through a 1994 revival of the classic "Damn Yankees," Abbott's contributions indelibly shaped the American theater landscape. Hardworking, dashing and formal - most people eschewed his first name, famously calling him "Mr. Abbott" instead - his work won him multiple awards starting with his first for writing the screenplay for "All Quiet on the Western Front" in 1930 and culminating with Kennedy Center Honors in 1982.

Abbott was born in Forestville, New York in 1887; his family moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming when he was 11, but returned to New York a few years later. Attending the University of Rochester, Abbott caught the theater bug and after graduation, he enrolled in a playwriting course at Harvard. He broke into theater as an actor and "play doctor," much like a Hollywood script doctor of today, and once he began earning a steady income, he married his longtime girlfriend Edna Levis. He directed one silent film, "The Imposter," in 1918, but it was "Broadway," co-written with Philip Dunning, that marked his first big stage success. In the same year, the first of many of his plays was adapted for film, "Love 'em and Leave 'em" (1926). Although the theater and Broadway in particular always remained his first love, Abbot enjoyed several decades of success in Hollywood as well.

His first major achievement in the film world came with his adaptation of "All Quiet on the Western Front" for which he received an Academy Award for Best Achievement in Writing. The same year, his wife died, leaving Abbott to raise their daughter Judith alone. His professional life, however, was thriving, and he directed eight films between 1929 and 1931 starring such luminaries as Tallulah Bankhead and Claudette Colbert. During the 1930s, Abbott's plays also launched the careers of a number of future stars including Eddie Albert, Jose Ferrer, Desi Arnaz and Gene Kelly. Abbot directed his first stage musical in 1935, Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Jumbo," and went on to direct many more musicals during the next two decades, often with some of his own adaptations and changes to the material. The actor, dancer and choreographer Bob Fosse worked with him on the stage production of the Tony Award-winning "The Pajama Game" (1955) which became a film written, directed and produced by Abbott two years later. The film "Damn Yankees" (1958), which he also wrote, directed and produced, was also based on his Tony Award-winning play of the same name. In 1946, Abbot married his second wife, actress Mary Sinclair, who was 35 years his junior. The marriage was short-lived, however, and ended in divorce in 1951.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s Abbott received numerous nominations and awards for his work on stage and screen including Tony Awards for the productions "Fiorello!" (1959) and "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" (1962). He also wrote an autobiography, Mister Abbott (1963). As he entered his ninth decade, Abbott began to slow down professionally, writing, directing, and producing fewer works, but remained energetic, staying current with the theater scene. In 1982, he received Kennedy Center Honors, and a year later married his longtime companion Joy Valderrama. He also directed and co-produced a revival of "On Your Toes" (1983) which was so successful he repeated it in London a year later. In his 100th year, he directed a revival of the hit that had launched his career more than 60 years earlier, "Broadway," and in 1989 he directed an off-Broadway musical version of "Frankenstein" reimagined as a love story. One year later, he received the prestigious National Medal of Arts from the National Endowment for the Arts. Abbott lived long enough to see "Damn Yankees" revived on Broadway when he was 106 and worked nearly up until the day of his death writing a revision of "The Pajama Game." Although the theater bearing his name was torn down in 1970, the man many people considered to be nearly synonymous with Broadway for several decades was honored by having a street near Times Square, George Abbott Way, named for him.

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

Damn Yankees (1958)
Director
The Pajama Game (1957)
Director
Too Many Girls (1940)
Director
The Cheat (1931)
Director
Secrets of a Secretary (1931)
Director
Stolen Heaven (1931)
Director
My Sin (1931)
Director
The Sea God (1930)
Director
Manslaughter (1930)
Director
Half-way to Heaven (1929)
Director
Why Bring That Up? (1929)
Director

Cast (Feature Film)

The Impostor (1918)
Lem

Writer (Feature Film)

Damn Yankees (1958)
Screenwriter
The Pajama Game (1957)
Screenwriter
Sombras del circo (1931)
Screenwriter
La incorregible (1931)
Screenwriter
Secrets of a Secretary (1931)
Adaptation
Stolen Heaven (1931)
Adaptation
My Sin (1931)
Adaptation
The Sea God (1930)
Adaptation
Manslaughter (1930)
Adaptation
The Sea God (1930)
Dial
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
Screenwriter
Half-way to Heaven (1929)
Adaptation
Why Bring That Up? (1929)
Adapted and dial
The Saturday Night Kid (1929)
Story

Producer (Feature Film)

Damn Yankees (1958)
Producer
The Pajama Game (1957)
Producer
Too Many Girls (1940)
Producer
Brother Rat (1938)
Producer
Boy Meets Girl (1938)
Producer

Production Companies (Feature Film)

Snafu (1945)
Company
Kiss and Tell (1945)
Company

Cast (Special)

Vaudeville (1997)
The 48th Annual Tony Awards (1994)
Performer
Lucy & Desi: TV's First Couple (1994)
Music By Richard Rodgers (1990)
Broadway: The Great White Way (1989)
Royal Showcase (1952)
Host

Writer (Special)

Broadway (1955)
Play As Source Material

Make-Up (Special)

John Denver's Christmas in Aspen (1988)
Makeup (Anne Murray)

Special Thanks (Special)

Broadway (1955)
Play As Source Material

Misc. Crew (Special)

Diamonds on the Silver Screen (1992)
Film Clips

Life Events

1926

First hit play, "Broadway"

1929

Directed first talkie, "Why Bring That Up?"

1930

Wrote first screenplay, "All Quiet on the Western Front"

1935

Directed first musical, "Jumbo"

1958

Co-directed film version of "Damn Yankees" with Stanley Donen

1983

Oldest director of show on Broadway with revival of "On Your Toes"

1994

Attended Broadway revival of "Damn Yankees"

Videos

Movie Clip

Boy Meets Girl (1938) - What Is Our Story? Actor Larry (Dick Foran) and his agent (Frank McHugh) discover the elaborate diversion by screenwriters Benson & Law (Pat O'Brien, James Cagney), who are up to other studio mischief, in Warner Bros.' back-lot comedy Boy Meets Girl, 1938.
Brother Rat (1938) - How Do You Keep From Getting Caught? Girl-crazy VMI cadet Billy (Wayne Morris), with distracted roommate Bing (Eddie Albert), awaits his slightly stand-offish girlfriend, local belle Joyce (Priscilla Lane) and her college roommate Claire (Jane Wyman), in town for the big baseball weekend before graduation, early in Warner Bros.’ Brother Rat, 1938.
Brother Rat (1938) - We Want To Be Alone Out for an evening in dress-whites, VMI cadet Dan (Wayne Morris) has roped roommate Dan (Ronald Reagan) to get visiting Claire (Jane Wyman, whom we’re supposed to consider plain, because of her glasses) away from his gal Joyce (Priscilla Lane), in the picture that led, eventually, to the Reagan-Wyman marriage, Brother Rat, 1938.
Brother Rat (1938) - An All-Around Man Big reveal here as we find out why Virginia Military Institute cadet and star pitcher Bing (Eddie Albert, in his first picture, in a role he originated on Broadway) has been so anxious for the arrival of his girl Kate (Jane Bryan) before the big game weekend, and she has a big surprise, in the Warner Bros’ hit Brother Rat, 1938.
All Quiet On The Western Front (1930) - Death Is Not An Adventure Prologue from Erich Maria Remarque's novel of Germany in World War I, opening scene introducing postman Himmelstoss (John Wray), and ambitious shooting from director Lewis Milestone, from All Quiet On The Western Front, 1930.
All Quiet On The Western Front (1930) - I'll Not Neglect You! German army recruits including Peter (Owen Davis Jr.) and Paul (Lew Ayres) discover their once mild-mannered postman Himmelstoss (John Wray) is their new drill instructor, in Lewis Milestone's All Quiet On The Western Front, 1930.
Coquette (1929) - I Do So Love Flowers! The father (John Sainpolis), little brother (William Janney) and milquetoast suitor Stanley (Matt Moore) are waiting around when Mary Pickford, in the title role as "Norma," makes her first appearance in her first talking picture, also winning the Academy Award, early in Coquette, 1929.
Coquette (1929) - I Never Told Any Other Man Having been left alone to wheedle her hunky but lower-caste and presumed-temporary boyfriend (Johnny Mack Brown) by her very accommodating usual suitor (Matt Moore), Southern belle Mary Pickford, playing the title role to the hilt, still early in her first talking picture, Coquette, 1929.
Boy Meets Girl (1938) - Baby In The Rockies Studio waitress Susie (Marie Wilson) has just passed out and revealed her (un-wed) pregnancy, executive Friday (Ralph Bellamy) flipping as screenwriters Benson & Law (Pat O'Brien, James Cagney) are inspired with a story for cowboy actor Larry (Dick Foran), in Boy Meets Girl, 1938.
Too Many Girls (1940) -- You're Nearer In the movie where they met off-screen, Desi Arnaz (as "Manuelito") and Lucille Ball (as "Connie") meet on screen, her dad (Harry Shannon) greeting, Desi and buddies swooning as she sings (dubbed vocal) Rodgers & Hart's You're Nearer, in Too Many Girls, 1940.
Too Many Girls (1940) -- All Dressed Up Connie (Lucille Ball) and bodyguard Clint (Richard Carlson) arrive as Manuelito (Desi Arnaz) and Pepe (Ann Miller) lead the college kids in Rodgers & Hart's badly titled Spic And Spanish, staged by Leroy Prinz, Hal Leroy joining, in Too Many Girls, 1940.
All Quiet On The Western Front (1930) - Eat Without Further Delay First day in the field, German infantry platoon led by Baumer (Lew Ayres) meets first veteran Tjaden (Slim Summerville) then crusty Katczinsky (Louis Wolheim), in All Quiet On The Western Front, 1930.

Family

Judith Abbott
Daughter
Actor. Married to Tom Ewell in 1946; divorced after a year.

Companions

Mary Sinclair
Wife
Actor, designer. Married March 27, 1946; divorced August 17, 1951.
Maureen Stapleton
Companion
Actor. Dated in 1970s.
Joy Abbott
Wife
Married November 22, 1983 when she was 52 and he was 96; survived him.

Bibliography

"Mister Abbott"
George Abbott (1963)