Robert E. Sherwood

Playwright / Screenwriter

Born: 4 April 1896
Died: 4 November 1955
Birthplace: New Rochelle, New York
Best known as:

 

The playwright who wrote the movie The Best Years of Our Lives

Name at birth: Robert Emmet Sherwood

Robert E. Sherwood was a playwright who won four Pulitzer Prizes, as well as a screenplay Oscar for the 1946 film The Best Years of Our Lives. Like his father Arthur, Sherwood went to Harvard and worked on the Harvard Lampoon (his dad was their first president), but Robert left school in 1917 to join the fight in World War I. Too tall for the U.S. military (Sherwood was 6' 7"), he joined the Canadian Black Watch and was sent to France, where he was gassed and wounded. Back in the U.S. after 1919, he worked closely with Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley, first at Variety and then Life magazine, and was a founding member of the Algonquin Round Table.  Sherwood made a name for himself as a movie critic in the 1920s, and in the 1930s he began writing plays. He won Pulitzers for the plays Idiot's Delight (1936), Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1938) and There Shall Be No Night (1940), and when World War II began he went to work for the administration of President Franklin Roosevelt as a speech writer and booster for the War Department. He turned those experiences into the book Roosevelt and Hopkins and won his fourth Pulitzer Prize in 1949. Along the way Sherwood had been writing dialogue and screenplays for Hollywood, including adapting Rebecca for Alfred Hitchcock and penning the script for The Best Years of Our Lives. Sherwood also had great success as a producer of plays and was an energetic advocate of playwright-produced productions, helping co-found the New Dramatists guild in 1949.

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