Garson Kanin

Garson Kanin (November 24, 1912 – March 13, 1999) was an American writer and director of plays and films.

Garson Kanin
Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon 1946
Kanin and wife Ruth Gordon in 1946.
BornNovember 24, 1912
DiedMarch 13, 1999 (aged 86)
Manhattan, New York City, U.S.[1]
Years active1939-1993
Spouse(s)Ruth Gordon
(1942-1985; her death)
Marian Seldes
(1990-1999; his death)
RelativesMichael Kanin (brother)

Stage career

Garson Kanin began his show business career as a jazz musician, burlesque comedian, and actor. He graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City and made his Broadway debut in Little Ol' Boy (1933). In 1935, Kanin was cast in a George Abbott play and soon became Abbott's assistant. Kanin made his Broadway debut as a director in 1936, at the age of twenty-four, with Hitch Your Wagon.

In 1945, Kanin directed Spencer Tracy in Tracy's first play in 15 years. Tracy had been through a dark patch personally—culminating with a stay in hospital—and Katharine Hepburn felt that a play would help restore his focus.[2] Tracy told a journalist in April, "I'm coming back to Broadway to see if I can still act." The play was The Rugged Path by Robert E. Sherwood, which first previewed in Providence, Rhode Island on September 28, to a sold-out crowd and tepid response.[3]

The Rugged Path was a difficult production, with Kanin later writing, "In the ten days prior to the New York opening all the important relationships had deteriorated. Spencer was tense and unbending, could not, or would not, take direction".[4] Tracy considered leaving the show before it even opened on Broadway,[5] and lasted there just six weeks before announcing his intention to close the show.[6] It closed on January 19, 1946, after 81 performances.[7] Tracy later explained to a friend: "I couldn't say those goddamn lines over and over and over again every night ... At least every day is a new day for me in films ... But this thing—every day, every day, over and over again."[8]

Kanin's 1946 play Born Yesterday, which he also directed, ran for 1,642 performances. Kanin worked, uncredited, on the screenplay of the 1950 film adaptation.[9]

His other stage work includes directing The Diary of Anne Frank (1955), which ran for 717 performances, and the musical Funny Girl (1964), which ran for 1,348 performances.

Kanin wrote and directed his last play, Peccadillo, in 1985, the same year he was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.[10]

Film career

His first film as a director was A Man to Remember (1938), which The New York Times considered one of the ten best films of 1938. Kanin was twenty-six at the time. Other directing credits include The Great Man Votes (1939), My Favorite Wife (1940), They Knew What They Wanted (1940) and Tom, Dick and Harry (1941).

Kanin's Hollywood career was interrupted by the draft. He served in the United States Army from 1941 to 1945. During this time Kanin, with Carol Reed, co-directed General Dwight D. Eisenhower's official record of the Allied Invasion, the Academy-award-winning documentary The True Glory (1945). During this time, he began writing what would become his greatest play, Born Yesterday.

Kanin's best-remembered screenplays, however, were written in collaboration with his wife, actress Ruth Gordon, whom he married in 1942. Together, they wrote the Spencer Tracy/Katharine Hepburn film comedies Adam's Rib (1949) and Pat and Mike (1952), as well as A Double Life (1947), starring Ronald Colman, all directed by George Cukor.

Television career

In the 1950s through the 1980s, Kanin adapted several of his stories and plays for television, most notably Mr. Broadway (1964), and Moviola (1980).

Kanin's best-selling novel Smash (1980), about the pre-Broadway tryout of a musical comedy, has recently been adapted into the television series Smash.

Acquaintances and memorable sayings

He was a colleague of Thornton Wilder, who mentored him, and an admirer of the work of Frank Capra. Kanin said "I'd rather be Capra than God, if there is a Capra." Kanin and Katharine Hepburn were the only witnesses to Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh's wedding in California on August 31, 1940. In 1941, he and Katharine Hepburn worked with his brother Michael Kanin and Ring Lardner, Jr., on the early drafts of what would become Woman of the Year right before Garson enlisted in the army. He is also quoted as saying, "When your work speaks for itself, don't interrupt."

His most famous quote, from his hit play "Born Yesterday," is on a New York City Public Library plaque on a 41st Street sidewalk: "I want everyone to be smart. As smart as they can be. A world of ignorant people is too dangerous to live in."


The Academy Film Archive preserved "Ring of Steel" and "Salut a La France" (French language version) by Garson Kanin.[11]

Personal life

Kanin was married to his frequent collaborator, Academy-award-winning actress Ruth Gordon, from 1942 to her death in 1985.

In 1990, Kanin married the celebrated stage actress Marian Seldes (1928-2014). In 1999, Kanin died at age 86 in Manhattan of undisclosed causes.

Kanin was Jewish.[12]

Selected publications

  • Remembering Mr. Maugham, with an introduction by Noël Coward, 1966.
  • Hollywood: Stars and Starlets, Tycoons, Moviemakers, Frauds, Hopefuls, Great Lovers. New York: Viking, 1967.
  • Tracy and Hepburn: An Intimate Memoir. New York: Viking, 1971.


  • Blow Up a Storm
  • Do Re Mi
  • Moviola
  • Smash
  • The Rat Race
  • Where It's At
  • A Thousand Suns


  • Born Yesterday
  • The Smile of the World
  • The Rat Race
  • The Live Wire
  • Come on Strong


Selected filmography


  • Curtis, James (2011). Spencer Tracy: A Biography. London: Hutchinson. ISBN 0-09-178524-3.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Curtis (2011) p. 517 for hospital stay; p. 512 for "Hepburn's strategy".
  3. ^ Curtis (2011) pp. 525–256.
  4. ^ Kanin (1971) p. 97.
  5. ^ Curtis (2011) p. 528.
  6. ^ Curtis (2011) p. 531.
  7. ^ Deschner (1972) p. 51.
  8. ^ Curtis (2011) p. 530.
  9. ^ Garson Kanin's Hollywood, p.326
  10. ^ "Broadway's Best". New York Times.
  11. ^ "Preserved Projects". Academy Film Archive.
  12. ^ "Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon Agree That Disagreeing Keeps Them Together as Man and Wife." Levin, Eric. People Magazine. Published October 13, 1980. Accessed June 15, 2017.

External links

A Man to Remember

A Man to Remember is a 1938 American drama film directed by Garson Kanin, his first film credit as a director. The picture was based on the short story Failure, written by Katharine Haviland-Taylor, and the screenplay was penned by Dalton Trumbo. The story tells of a saintly small town doctor working under difficult circumstances somewhere in the United States after World War I. The movie is a remake of One Man's Journey (1933) starring Lionel Barrymore.

Bachelor Mother

Bachelor Mother (1939) is an American comedy film directed by Garson Kanin, and starring Ginger Rogers, David Niven, and Charles Coburn. The screenplay was written by Norman Krasna based on an Academy Award nominated story by Felix Jackson (a.k.a. Felix Joachimson) written for the 1935 Austrian-Hungarian film Little Mother. With a plot full of mistaken identities, Bachelor Mother is a light-hearted treatment of the otherwise serious issues of child abandonment.

It was remade in 1956 as Bundle of Joy, starring Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher.

This movie also inspired some Bollywood movies like Kunwara Baap .

Born Yesterday

Born Yesterday may refer to:

Born Yesterday (play), a 1946 Broadway play by Garson Kanin

Born Yesterday (1950 film), a 1950 film directed by George Cukor

Born Yesterday (1956 film), a 1956 TV film directed by Garson Kanin

Born Yesterday (1993 film), a 1993 film directed by Luis Mandoki

Born Yesterday (album), a 1985 album by The Everly Brothers

Born Yesterday (1956 film)

Born Yesterday is a 1956 TV film based on the play Born Yesterday by Garson Kanin for the Hallmark Hall of Fame. Kanin adapted and directed it. George Schaefer helped Kanin direct but was not credited.Mary Martin's performance was her first TV appearance since Peter Pan. The New York Times thought she was miscast.

Born Yesterday (play)

Born Yesterday is a play written by Garson Kanin which premiered on Broadway in 1946, starring Judy Holliday as Billie Dawn. The play was adapted into

a successful 1950 film of the same name.

Do Re Mi (musical)

Do Re Mi is a musical with music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and a book by Garson Kanin, who also directed the original 1960 Broadway production. The plot centers on a minor-league con man who decides to go (somewhat) straight by going into the business of juke boxes and music promotion. The musical introduced the popular songs "Cry Like the Wind" and "Make Someone Happy".

Moviola (novel)

Moviola is a 1979 novel, published by Simon & Schuster, by writer-director Garson Kanin.

The novel tells the fictional story of Ben Farber, an immigrant who arrives in Hollywood at the beginning of its Golden Era. Farber narrates the story of his life, interwoven with the legendary events and people that made Hollywood the Movie Capital of the World. Farber interacts with Greta Garbo, with David and Myron Selznick during the talent search for the perfect Scarlett O'Hara, and with the discovery of Marilyn Monroe among other people and events.

Moviola was subsequently adapted into a three-part miniseries for NBC in 1980; the episodes have also been distributed as stand-alone TV movies. They are:

The Silent Lovers

This Year's Blonde

The Scarlett O'Hara War

My Favorite Wife

My Favorite Wife (released in the U.K. as My Favourite Wife) is a 1940 screwball comedy produced and co-written by Leo McCarey and directed by Garson Kanin. The picture stars Irene Dunne as a woman who returns to her husband and children after being shipwrecked on a tropical island for several years, and Cary Grant as her husband. The story is an adaptation of Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem, "Enoch Arden"; in tribute, the main characters' last name is Arden. The supporting cast features Gail Patrick as the woman Arden has just married when his first wife, now declared dead, returns, and Randolph Scott as the man with whom his wife had been marooned. My Favorite Wife was RKO's second-biggest hit of 1940.

Next Time I Marry

Next Time I Marry is a 1938 American comedy film directed by Garson Kanin and written by John Twist and Helen Meinardi. The film stars Lucille Ball, James Ellison, Lee Bowman, Granville Bates and Mantan Moreland. The film was released on December 9, 1938, by RKO Pictures.

Pat and Mike

Pat and Mike is a 1952 American romantic comedy film starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. The movie was written by Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin, and directed by George Cukor, who also directed The Philadelphia Story (1940) with Hepburn, and Adam's Rib (1949) with Hepburn and Tracy.

Ring of Steel (film)

Ring of Steel is a 1942 Army recruiting film narrated by Spencer Tracy. The film was produced at the Long Island studio of the Army Signal Corps by Warner Brothers for the U.S. Office for Emergency Management.

Ruth Gordon

Ruth Gordon Jones (October 30, 1896 – August 28, 1985) was an American film, stage, and television actress, as well as a screenwriter and playwright. Gordon began her career performing on Broadway at age nineteen. Known for her nasal voice and distinctive personality, she gained international recognition and critical acclaim for film roles that continued into her seventies and eighties. Her later work included performances in Rosemary's Baby (1968), Harold and Maude (1971), and the Clint Eastwood films Every Which Way but Loose (1978) and Any Which Way You Can (1980).In addition to her acting career, Gordon wrote numerous plays, film scripts, and books, most notably co-writing the screenplay for the 1949 film Adam's Rib. Gordon won an Academy Award, an Emmy, and two Golden Globe Awards for her acting, as well as receiving three Academy Award nominations for her writing.

Smash (novel)

Smash is an American novel by Garson Kanin. Published in 1980 by Viking Press, the book follows the creation of a Broadway musical about vaudeville performer Nora Bayes, from casting to opening night.

Smash was the partial basis for the 2012 NBC television series Smash.

Some Kind of a Nut

Some Kind of a Nut is a 1969 American comedy film written and directed by Garson Kanin and starring Dick Van Dyke, Angie Dickinson and Rosemary Forsyth.

The Great Man Votes

The Great Man Votes is a 1939 American drama film starring John Barrymore as a widowed professor turned drunkard who has the deciding vote in an election for mayor. It was based on the short story of the same name by Gordon Malherbe Hillman published in the November 1933 issue of American Magazine. The plot of the 2008 movie Swing Vote has been compared to The Great Man Votes.

The Rugged Path

The Rugged Path is a 1945 play by Robert E. Sherwood.

The initial production marked a return to the stage by Spencer Tracy under the direction of Garson Kanin.

They Knew What They Wanted (film)

They Knew What They Wanted is a 1940 film directed by Garson Kanin, written by Robert Ardrey, and starring Carole Lombard, Charles Laughton and William Gargan. It is based on the 1924 Pulitzer Prize winning play They Knew What They Wanted by Sidney Howard. For his performance Gargan was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Tom, Dick and Harry (1941 film)

Tom, Dick and Harry is a 1941 comedy film directed by Garson Kanin, written by Paul Jarrico, and starring Ginger Rogers, George Murphy, Alan Marshal, Phil Silvers, and Burgess Meredith. The film was released by RKO Radio Pictures.

This role was Ginger Rogers' day job when she was awarded the Oscar as Best Actress for her 1940 performance in Kitty Foyle. It was her first film released after winning her Oscar.

The film was remade as The Girl Most Likely (1957), a musical which also proved to be the last film released by RKO.

Where It's At (film)

Where It's At is a 1969 American drama film written and directed by Garson Kanin. The film stars David Janssen, Rosemary Forsyth, Robert Drivas, Brenda Vaccaro and Don Rickles. The film was released on May 7, 1969, by United Artists.

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