Eugene Gladstone O'Neill (October 16, 1888 – November 27, 1953) was an American playwright and Nobel laureate in Literature. His poetically titled plays were among the first to introduce into U.S. drama techniques of realism earlier associated with Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, and Swedish playwright August Strindberg. The drama Long Day's Journey into Night is often numbered on the short list of the finest U.S. plays in the 20th century, alongside Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire and Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman.
O'Neill's plays were among the first to include speeches in American English vernacular and involve characters on the fringes of society. They struggle to maintain their hopes and aspirations, but ultimately slide into disillusionment and despair. Of his very few comedies, only one is well-known (Ah, Wilderness!). Nearly all of his other plays involve some degree of tragedy and personal pessimism.
Portrait of O'Neill by Alice Boughton
|Born||Eugene Gladstone O'Neill|
October 16, 1888
New York City, U.S.
|Died||November 27, 1953 (aged 65)|
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Notable awards||Nobel Prize in Literature (1936)|
Pulitzer Prize for Drama (1920, 1922, 1928, 1957)
(m. 1918; div. 1929)
O'Neill was born in a hotel, the Barrett House, at Broadway and 43rd Street, on what was then Longacre Square (now Times Square). A commemorative plaque was first dedicated there in 1957. The site is now occupied by 1500 Broadway, which houses offices, shops and the ABC Studios.
He was the son of Irish immigrant actor James O'Neill and Mary Ellen Quinlan, who was also of Irish descent. Because his father was often on tour with a theatrical company, accompanied by Eugene's mother, O'Neill was sent to St. Aloysius Academy for Boys, a Catholic boarding school in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, where he found his only solace in books. His father suffered from alcoholism; his mother from an addiction to morphine, prescribed to relieve the pains of the difficult birth of her third son, Eugene.
The O'Neill family reunited for summers at the Monte Cristo Cottage in New London, Connecticut. He also briefly attended Betts Academy in Stamford. He attended Princeton University for one year. Accounts vary as to why he left. He may have been dropped for attending too few classes, been suspended for "conduct code violations," or "for breaking a window", or according to a more concrete but possibly apocryphal account, because he threw "a beer bottle into the window of Professor Woodrow Wilson", the future president of the United States.
O'Neill spent several years at sea, during which he suffered from depression and alcoholism. Despite this, he had a deep love for the sea and it became a prominent theme in many of his plays, several of which are set on board ships like those on which he worked. O'Neill joined the Marine Transport Workers Union of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), which was fighting for improved living conditions for the working class using quick 'on the job' direct action. O'Neill's parents and elder brother Jamie (who drank himself to death at the age of 45) died within three years of one another, not long after he had begun to make his mark in the theater.
After his experience in 1912–13 at a sanatorium where he was recovering from tuberculosis, he decided to devote himself full-time to writing plays (the events immediately prior to going to the sanatorium are dramatized in his masterpiece, Long Day's Journey into Night). O'Neill had previously been employed by the New London Telegraph, writing poetry as well as reporting.
In the fall of 1914, he entered Harvard University to attend a course in dramatic technique given by Professor George Baker. He left after one year and did not complete the course.
During the 1910s O'Neill was a regular on the Greenwich Village literary scene, where he also befriended many radicals, most notably Communist Labor Party of America founder John Reed. O'Neill also had a brief romantic relationship with Reed's wife, writer Louise Bryant. O'Neill was portrayed by Jack Nicholson in the 1981 film Reds, about the life of John Reed; Louise Bryant was portrayed by Diane Keaton. His involvement with the Provincetown Players began in mid-1916. O'Neill is said to have arrived for the summer in Provincetown with "a trunk full of plays." Susan Glaspell describes a reading of Bound East for Cardiff that took place in the living room of Glaspell and her husband George Cram Cook's home on Commercial Street, adjacent to the wharf (pictured) that was used by the Players for their theater: "So Gene took Bound East for Cardiff out of his trunk, and Freddie Burt read it to us, Gene staying out in the dining-room while reading went on. He was not left alone in the dining-room when the reading had finished." The Provincetown Players performed many of O'Neill's early works in their theaters both in Provincetown and on MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village. Some of these early plays began downtown and then moved to Broadway.
One of these early one acts written by O'Neill was The Web. Written in 1913, this is the first time O'Neill explores the famous themes he thrives in in his later career. The Web was one of O'Neill's first dramas. This very one act began his interesting inclusion of the brothel world. This can be showcased as prostitutes are included in around fourteen of his plays. We see O'Neill explore memorable avenues within this play such a including a baby that was born out of prostitution. This was a huge stepping stone as O'Neill is exploring fields in which have never before been explored with such success.
O'Neill's first published play, Beyond the Horizon, opened on Broadway in 1920 to great acclaim, and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. His first major hit was The Emperor Jones, which ran on Broadway in 1920 and obliquely commented on the U.S. occupation of Haiti that was a topic of debate in that year's presidential election. His best-known plays include Anna Christie (Pulitzer Prize 1922), Desire Under the Elms (1924), Strange Interlude (Pulitzer Prize 1928), Mourning Becomes Electra (1931), and his only well-known comedy, Ah, Wilderness!, a wistful re-imagining of his youth as he wished it had been. In 1936 he received the Nobel Prize for Literature after he had been nominated that year by Henrik Schück, member of the Swedish Academy. After a ten-year pause, O'Neill's now-renowned play The Iceman Cometh was produced in 1946. The following year's A Moon for the Misbegotten failed, and it was decades before coming to be considered as among his best works.
He was also part of the modern movement to partially revive the classical heroic mask from ancient Greek theatre and Japanese Noh theatre in some of his plays, such as The Great God Brown and Lazarus Laughed.
O'Neill was married to Kathleen Jenkins from October 2, 1909 to 1912, during which time they had one son, Eugene O'Neill, Jr. (1910–1950). In 1917, O'Neill met Agnes Boulton, a successful writer of commercial fiction, and they married on April 12, 1918. They lived in a home owned by her parents in Point Pleasant, New Jersey, after their marriage. The years of their marriage—during which the couple lived in Connecticut and Bermuda and had two children, Shane and Oona—are described vividly in her 1958 memoir Part of a Long Story. They divorced in 1929, after O'Neill abandoned Boulton and the children for the actress Carlotta Monterey (born San Francisco, California, December 28, 1888; died Westwood, New Jersey, November 18, 1970). O'Neill and Carlotta married less than a month after he officially divorced his previous wife.
In 1929, O'Neill and Monterey moved to the Loire Valley in central France, where they lived in the Château du Plessis in Saint-Antoine-du-Rocher, Indre-et-Loire. During the early 1930s they returned to the United States and lived in Sea Island, Georgia, at a house called Casa Genotta. He moved to Danville, California in 1937 and lived there until 1944. His house there, Tao House, is today the Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site.
In their first years together, Monterey organized O'Neill's life, enabling him to devote himself to writing. She later became addicted to potassium bromide, and the marriage deteriorated, resulting in a number of separations, although they never divorced.
He also had distant relationships with his sons. Eugene O'Neill Jr., a Yale classicist, suffered from alcoholism and committed suicide in 1950 at the age of 40. Shane O'Neill became a heroin addict and moved into the family home in Bermuda, Spithead, with his new wife, where he supported himself by selling off the furnishings. He was disowned by his father before also committing suicide (by jumping out of a window) a number of years later. Oona ultimately inherited Spithead and the connected estate (subsequently known as the Chaplin Estate). In 1950 O'Neill joined The Lambs, the famed theater club.
|Child||Date of birth||Date of death|
|Eugene O'Neill Jr.||5/5/1910||9/25/1950|
After suffering from multiple health problems (including depression and alcoholism) over many years, O'Neill ultimately faced a severe Parkinsons-like tremor in his hands which made it impossible for him to write during the last 10 years of his life; he had tried using dictation but found himself unable to compose in that way. While at Tao House, O'Neill had intended to write a cycle of 11 plays chronicling an American family since the 1800s. Only two of these, A Touch of the Poet and More Stately Mansions, were ever completed. As his health worsened, O'Neill lost inspiration for the project and wrote three largely autobiographical plays, The Iceman Cometh, Long Day's Journey into Night, and A Moon for the Misbegotten. He managed to complete Moon for the Misbegotten in 1943, just before leaving Tao House and losing his ability to write. Drafts of many other uncompleted plays were destroyed by Carlotta at Eugene's request.
O'Neill died in Room 401 of the Sheraton Hotel (now Boston University's Kilachand Hall) on Bay State Road in Boston, on November 27, 1953, at the age of 65. As he was dying, he whispered his last words: "I knew it. I knew it. Born in a hotel room and died in a hotel room." Dr. Harry Kozol, the lead prosecuting expert of the Patty Hearst trial, treated O'Neill during these last years of illness. He also was present for O'Neill's death and announced the fact to the public.
In 1956 Carlotta arranged for his autobiographical play Long Day's Journey into Night to be published, although his written instructions had stipulated that it not be made public until 25 years after his death. It was produced on stage to tremendous critical acclaim and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1957. This last play is widely considered to be his finest. Other posthumously-published works include A Touch of the Poet (1958) and More Stately Mansions (1967).
O'Neill is referenced by Upton Sinclair in The Cup of Fury (1956), by J.K. Simmons' character in Whiplash (2014), and by Tony Stark in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), specifically Long Day's Journey into Night.
O'Neill's home in New London, Monte Cristo Cottage, was made a National Historic Landmark in 1971. His home in Danville, California, near San Francisco, was preserved as the Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site in 1976.
Connecticut College maintains the Louis Sheaffer Collection, consisting of material collected by the O'Neill biographer. The principal collection of O'Neill papers is at Yale University. The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Connecticut fosters the development of new plays under his name.
There is also a theatre in New York City named after him located at 230 West 49th Street in midtown-Manhattan. The Eugene O'Neill Theatre has housed musicals and plays such as Yentl, Annie, Grease, M. Butterfly, Spring Awakening, and The Book of Mormon.
The Glencairn Plays, all of which feature characters on the fictional ship Glencairn—filmed together as The Long Voyage Home:
Other one-act plays include:
|Awards and achievements|
Warren S. Stone
| Cover of Time magazine
March 17, 1924
A Moon for the Misbegotten is a play by Eugene O'Neill. The play is a sequel to O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night, with the Jim Tyrone character as an older version of Jamie Tyrone. He began drafting the play late in 1941, set it aside after a few months and returned to it a year later, completing the text in 1943 – his final work, as his failing health made it physically impossible for him to write. The play premiered on Broadway in 1957 and has had four Broadway revivals, plus a West End engagement.Ah, Wilderness!
Ah, Wilderness! is a comedy by American playwright Eugene O'Neill that premiered on Broadway at the Guild Theatre on October 2, 1933. It differs from a typical O'Neill play in its happy ending for the central character, and depiction of a happy family in turn of the century America. It is O'Neill's only well-known comedy.
The play was successful in its first Broadway production and the touring production that followed. It has since become a staple of community repertory.Ah, Wilderness! (film)
Ah, Wilderness! is a 1935 American film adaptation of the Eugene O'Neill play of the same name starring Wallace Beery. The picture was shot in Grafton, Massachusetts, at the common in the center of town, and was directed by Clarence Brown. Beery plays the drunken uncle later portrayed on Broadway by Jackie Gleason, and the film features Lionel Barrymore, Eric Linden, Cecilia Parker, Spring Byington, and a young Mickey Rooney. Rooney also stars in MGM's musical remake Summer Holiday (1948).
The film was the first advertised in trade papers for Academy Award nominations, depicting a cartoon of MGM's Leo the Lion holding an Oscar and proudly stating "You've given so much, Leo ... Get ready to receive!" Nevertheless, the film failed to receive a single nomination.Anna Christie
Anna Christie is a play in four acts by Eugene O'Neill. It made its Broadway debut at the Vanderbilt Theatre on November 2, 1921. O'Neill received the 1922 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for this work.Anna Christie (1923 film)
Anna Christie is a 1923 silent era drama motion picture based on the 1921 play by Eugene O'Neill (first film version), starring Blanche Sweet and William Russell.
Directed by John Griffith Wray and produced by Thomas H. Ince for First National Pictures, the screenplay was adapted by Bradley King from the Eugene O'Neill play of the same title. Thomas H. Ince Inc. paid a then-astronomical $35,000 for the screen rights to the play.The sole remaining print was discovered in Europe in the 1970s.Eugene O'Neill (hurler)
Eugene O'Neill (born 1978 in Cappawhite, County Tipperary) is an Irish sportsperson. He plays hurling with his local club Cappawhite and played with the Tipperary senior inter-county team in the 1990s and 2000s.Eugene O'Neill Award
The Eugene O'Neill Award (also known as The Eugene O'Neill Scholarship Award or The Eugene O'Neill Acting Award), is one of Sweden's finest awards for stage actors. Established by the American playwright Eugene O'Neill, it was first awarded in 1956.
Just before Eugene O'Neill died in 1953 he drew up a will in which he gave the then not yet staged play Long Day's Journey Into Night (written in 1941) to the Royal Dramatic Theatre, Sweden's national theatre, along with exclusive first performance rights. The gesture was as thanks for Dramaten's continued interest in staging his plays (more so than any other theatre in the world), and for the Swedes' appreciation of his work long before he became recognized internationally, or in his home country (O'Neill was also the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1936). Later on, his widow Carlotta Monterey O'Neill also gave Dramaten the performing rights to A Touch of the Poet (written in 1942), Hughie and More Stately Mansions. She refused staging fees for his plays in Sweden, provided that 8% of the royalties from the revenues of each performance were given to the Eugene O'Neill Memory Fund, which manages the money for the scholarship award.
The award is bestowed annually on the 16th of October (O'Neill's birthday) and is, according to O'Neill's own wishes, given to "highly deserving actors of Dramaten". Recipients of the award are decided by Dramaten's board of directors.
The prize money currently consists of SEK 30,000 (approximately 4,000 USD).
As an extra honour to Eugene O'Neill, the first award was granted to the two actors who played the leading parts of James and Mary Tyrone in the original staging of Long Day's Journey Into Night at Dramaten in February 1956; Lars Hanson and Inga Tidblad - already legendary thespians of the Swedish stage since the early 1920s and most definitely "highly deserving actors".
Throughout the years it has continued to be given to Sweden's finest theatre actors.Eugene O'Neill Jr.
Eugene Gladstone O'Neill Jr. (May 5, 1910 – September 25, 1950) was an American professor of Greek literature and the only child of Nobel Prize-winning playwright Eugene O'Neill and his first wife, Kathleen Jenkins.Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site
The Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site, located in Danville, California, preserves Tao House, the Monterey Colonial hillside home of America's only Nobel Prize-winning playwright, Eugene O'Neill.Eugene O'Neill Theater Center
The Eugene O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Connecticut is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit theater company founded in 1964 by George C. White. The O'Neill is the recipient of two Tony Awards, the 1979 Special Award and the 2010 Regional Theatre Award, and the 2015 National Medal of Arts presented on September 22, 2016 by President Obama. The O'Neill is a multi-disciplinary institution that has had a transformative effect on American theater. The O'Neill pioneered play development and stage readings as a tool for new plays and musicals, and is also home to the National Theater Institute (est. 1970), an intensive study-away semester for undergraduates. Its major theater conferences include the National Playwrights Conference (est. 1965); the National Critics Conference (est. 1968), the National Musical Theater Conference (est. 1978), the National Puppetry Conference (est. 1990), and the Cabaret & Performance Conference (est. 2005). The Monte Cristo Cottage, Eugene O'Neill's childhood home in New London, Connecticut, was purchased and restored by the O'Neill in the 1970s and is maintained as a museum. The theater's campus, overlooking Long Island Sound in Waterford Beach Park, has four major performance spaces: two indoor and two outdoor. The O'Neill is led by Executive Director Preston Whiteway.
Also known as Walnut Grove and Hammond Estate, the estate was added to the National Register of Historic Places on September 21, 2005, for its architectural significance, and its associations with Revolutionary War Colonel William North and Edward Crowninshield Hammond, a wealthy industrialist.Eugene O'Neill Theatre
The Eugene O'Neill Theatre is a Broadway theatre located at 230 West 49th Street in midtown Manhattan. The O’Neill Theatre, named after playwright Eugene O’Neill, is owned and operated by Jujamcyn Theaters. The house can accommodate up to 1108 guests and has been home to big hits, Big River, Spring Awakening, and the long-running 2011 Tony Award Best Musical winner, The Book of Mormon.Holger Löwenadler
Holger Carl Minton Löwenadler (1 April 1904 – 18 June 1977) was a Swedish film actor. He starred in Ingmar Bergman's A Ship to India (1947). He appeared in Divorced (1951), which was written by Bergman. Other appearances include Lacombe Lucien (1974).In the Zone (play)
In the Zone is a 1917 stage play by Eugene O'Neill.Long Day's Journey into Night
Long Day's Journey into Night is a drama play in four acts written by American playwright Eugene O'Neill in 1941–42, first published in 1956. The play is widely considered to be his magnum opus and one of the finest American plays of the 20th century. It premiered in Sweden in February 1956 and then opened on Broadway in November 1956, winning the Tony Award for Best Play.
O'Neill posthumously received the 1957 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Long Day's Journey into Night. The work concerns the Tyrone family, consisting of parents James and Mary and their sons Edmund and Jamie. Mary is addicted to morphine and Edmund is ill with tuberculosis. The "Long Day" refers to the setting of the play, which takes place during one day. The play is semi-autobiographical.Long Day's Journey into Night (1962 film)
Long Day's Journey into Night is a 1962 American drama film adaptation of the Eugene O'Neill play. It was directed by Sidney Lumet, and produced by Ely Landau, with Joseph E. Levine and Jack J. Dreyfus, Jr. as executive producers. The screenplay was not adapted, but used directly from O'Neill's play, the music score by André Previn, and the cinematography by Boris Kaufman.
It was shot at Chelsea Studios in New York City. The exteriors were shot on City Island.
The film has been restored and preserved by UCLA Film & Television Archive.Mourning Becomes Electra (film)
Mourning Becomes Electra is a 1947 American drama film by Dudley Nichols adapted from the 1931 Eugene O'Neill play Mourning Becomes Electra. The film stars Rosalind Russell, Michael Redgrave, Raymond Massey, Katina Paxinou, Leo Genn and Kirk Douglas.
It was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Michael Redgrave) and Best Actress in a Leading Role (Rosalind Russell). Originally released by RKO Radio Pictures at nearly three hours, it was eventually cut to 105 minutes (losing more than an hour) after it performed poorly at the box office and won no Oscars. It has since been restored to its full length and shown on Turner Classic Movies.
An Oscar upset occurred in connection with the film. All who saw it had taken it for granted that Rosalind Russell would win for her performance as Lavinia, to the point that Russell actually began to rise from her seat just before the winner's name was called. However, it was Loretta Young, and not Russell, who was named Best Actress for her performance in The Farmer's Daughter.
The film recorded a loss of $2,310,000, making it one of RKO's biggest financial disasters.Strange Interlude (film)
Strange Interlude is a 1932 American pre-Code drama film directed by Robert Z. Leonard and released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The film stars Norma Shearer and Clark Gable, and is based on the play Strange Interlude by Eugene O'Neill. It is greatly shortened from the play: the stage production lasts six hours and is sometimes performed over two evenings, while the film runs the usual two hours.The Iceman Cometh (The Play of the Week)
The Iceman Cometh is a 1960 television production of the Eugene O'Neill play of the same title. Two separate parts were originally broadcast as episodes of The Play of the Week by the syndication service National Telefilm Associates (NTA).The Long Voyage Home
The Long Voyage Home is a 1940 American drama film directed by John Ford. It stars John Wayne, Thomas Mitchell and Ian Hunter. It also features Barry Fitzgerald, Wilfrid Lawson, John Qualen, Mildred Natwick, and Ward Bond, among others.
The film was adapted by Dudley Nichols from the plays The Moon of the Caribbees, In the Zone, Bound East for Cardiff, and The Long Voyage Home by Eugene O'Neill. The original plays by Eugene O'Neill were written around the time of World War I and were among his earliest plays. Ford set the story for the motion picture, however, during the early days of World War II.While not one of Ford's best-known works, The Long Voyage Home continues to be well received. Film critics and scholars have noted Gregg Toland's distinctive cinematography, which serves as a precursor of the film noir aesthetic and would hint at his work for Orson Welles' landmark film Citizen Kane (1941).
Pulitzer Prize for Drama: Authors