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Nathan Jean George Edit Profile

critic , playwright

Nathan George Jean was an American drama critic and magazine editor. He worked closely with H. L. Mencken, bringing the literary magazine The Smart Set to prominence as an editor, and co-founding and editing The American Mercury and The American Spectator.

Background

He was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He graduated from Cornell University in 1904. There, he was a member of the Quill and Dagger society and an editor of the Cornell Daily Sun.

Education

He was educated at Cornell University and the University of Bologna. His career in dramatic criticism began in 1905 when his uncle, Charles Frederic Nirollinger, himself a well-known critic, got him a job as cub reporter on the New York Herald. During the more than fifty years of his journalist career, he concentrated mainly on the world of Broadway and contributed to such magazines as Harper’s Weekly, the Bohemian Magazine, Life, Vanity Fair, and Scribner's, among others.

Career

His career in dramatic criticism began in 1905 when his uncle, Charles Frederic Nirollinger, himself a well- known critic, got him a job as cub reporter on the New York Herald. During the more than fifty years of his journalist career, he concentrated mainly on the world of Broadway and contributed to such magazines as Harper’s Weekly, the Bohemian Magazine, Life, Vanity Fair, and Scribner's, among others. From 1914 to 1923, he coedited the Smart Set with H. L. Mencken, and in 1924 helped him found and edit the American Mercury, one of the most lively and influential of American literary journals. They aiso wrote the satirical play Helioglobus together in 1920.

Nathan openly criticized the mainstream-accepted melodrama influenced by David Belasco. In breaking with the traditional dramatic criticism of his times, he voiced an individual opinion that helped shape the taste of the American public. He was influential in the acceptance of what represented a completely new orientation in drama that of Eugene O’Neill, Sean O’Casey, and Jean Giraudoux. By the mid-1920s he was reputed to be the most widely read and best-paid dramatic critic in the world. Known for his pungent, witty, and very lively style.

Nathan lived in a cluttered hotel apartment in the heart of the New York theater district for the last fifty years of his life. "All I have to offer.” he argued, “is critical opinion filtered through more than thirty years of unremitting playgoing and study of the theater and dramatic literature in the four quarters of the globe." In The Critic and the Drama, he states that “art is a reaching out into the ugliness of the world for vagrant beauty and the imprisoning of in a tangible dream. Criticism is simply the dream book.” His philosophy of criticism is to be found in his Autobiography of an Attitude (1921). Altogether he reviewed over six thousand productions.

Achievements

  • The George Jean Nathan Award, an honor in dramatic criticism, is named after him. Nathan is also a member of the American Theater Hall of Fame.

Views

Known for his pungent, witty, and very lively style.

Quotations: "All I have to offer.” he argued, “is critical opinion filtered through more than thirty years of unremitting playgoing and study of the theater and dramatic literature in the four quarters of the globe." In The Critic and the Drama, he states that “art is a reaching out into the ugliness of the world for vagrant beauty and the imprisoning of in a tangible dream. Criticism is simply the dream book.”

Connections

Though he published a paean to bachelorhood (The Bachelor Life, 1941), Nathan had a reputation as a ladies' man and was not averse to dating women working in the theater. The character of Addison De Witt, the waspish theater critic who squires a starlet (played by a then-unknown Marilyn Monroe) in the 1950 film All About Eve was based on Nathan. He had a romantic relationship with actress Lillian Gish, beginning in the late 1920s and lasting almost a decade. Gish repeatedly refused his proposals of marriage. Nathan eventually married considerably younger stage actress, Julie Haydon, in 1955.

wife:
Julie Haydon - actress
Julie Haydon - wife of Nathan George