Clifford OdetsPlaywright / Screenwriter
Born: 18 July 1906
Died: 14 August 1963 (cancer)
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Best known as: The author of the play Waiting for Lefty
Clifford Odets was an American playwright and screenwriter from the 1930s to the 1960s, known throughout most of his career for politically-charged dramas that championed the cause of the disenfranchised. Born in Philadelphia, he was mostly brought up in New York, the son of Jewish immigrants from Russia and Austria. Odets dropped out of high school in 1923 and used his background as an adept poetry reader to land a job on radio as a DJ. He worked as an actor and wrote plays, and in 1931 he was invited to join the newly formed Group Theatre. His first big work, Waiting for Lefty
, made him a star in 1935. Odets became a celebrity, and spent the rest of his career as a playwright in the New York theater and a screenwriter in Hollywood. His reputation as a champion for working class heroes was tarnished in 1952, when Odets was a friendly witness before the House Un-American Activities Committee of the U.S. Congress. He'd been a member of the Communist Party in 1934 and 1935, and when he was "outed" as a Hollywood communist, Odets gave the committee the names of others who'd been involved. His other plays include Awake and Sing!
, Paradise Lost
and The Big Knife
. His screenplays include Humoresque
(1946), Sweet Smell of Success
(1957, starring Burt Lancaster
and Tony Curtis
) and Wild in the Country
(1961, starring Elvis Presley
Clifford Odets also collected art and had a large collection of Paul Klee paintings… Late in his career, Odets worked as a story editor and teleplay author for TV’s The Richard Boone Show (1961).
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