Born, New York City, 1888

This document was originally published in Minute History of the Drama. Alice B. Fort & Herbert S. Kates. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1935. p. 134.

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Eugene O'NeillEUGENE GLADSTONE O'NEILL, rated the foremost American dramatist of the early twentieth century, piled a lifetime of adventurous living into his first twenty-seven years. He covered (under protest) the theatrical barrens of "the road" with his father's stock company. Later wanderlust took him from New York to Buenos Aires, from South America to South Africa and back again to South America because he couldn't convince the South African authorities that he had a visible means of support. He held jobs that varied from secretary of a mail order house to gold prospecting in Central America; from draughtsman for Westinghouse Electric Co. to mule tender on tramp steamers; from beach comber to newspaper reporter. It was in this latter job, when he was 27, that Fate in the form of certain lung spots caught up with him and he was sentenced to a year in a sanitorium.

This year was for O'Neill a spiritual as well as a physical rebirth. He returned to life with a sure knowledge of what he wanted to do and a varied background of experience upon which to call in doing it. Leaving the sanitorium, O'Neill turned to Professor George Pierce Baker's "English 47" at Harvard for a serious study of dramatic technique. His first contacts with the stage as a playwright were in the "Little Theater" movement in Provincetown. There his first produced play, Bound East for Cardiff, was enacted. His first full length play, Beyond the Horizon, not only achieved production on commercially-minded Broadway, but incidentally won the Pulitzer Prize for that year.

O'Neill's first real box office success, however, was Anna Christie. It was probably the furor of discussion aroused by the novelty both of theme and treatment in Strange Interlude (1928) that made O'Neill's name known wherever the English-speaking stage is discussed. Other important plays by this dramatist include The Emperor Jones, Mourning Becomes Electra, and All God's Chillun Got Wings.

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