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Robert Edwin Lee Edit Profile

playwright , screenwriter

Robert Edwin Lee was an American playwright and lyricist.


Lee, Robert Edwin was born on October 15, 1918 in Elyria, Ohio, United States. Son of Claire Melvin and Elvira (Taft) Lee.


Student, Ohio Wesleyan University, 1935-1937;Doctor of Letters, Ohio Wesleyan University, 1962;Doctor of Letters, College Wooster, 1983;Doctor of Humane Letters, Ohio State University, 1979.


Lawrence and Lee turned to the live theatre in 1955 with Inherit the Wind, which remains among the most-produced plays in the American theatre. They are also well known for the plays Auntie Mame and First Monday in October. In 1965, Lawrence and Lee founded the American Playwrights' Theatre, a plan to bypass the commerciality of the Broadway stage, which foreshadowed the professional regional theatre movement.

Their wildly successful play, The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail, was produced through the American Playwrights Theatre, and premiered at Lawrence's alma mater, Ohio State University, which also commissioned their play on the life and times of James Thurber, Jabberwock (1972). In all, they collaborated on 39 works, and a 1956 musical adaptation of James Hilton's Lost Horizon, entitled Shangri-La, with the author himself. Less successful was the Lawrence and Lee collaboration with Herman, also starring Lansbury, Dear World, a musical adaptation of Jean Giraudoux's The Madwoman of Chaillot.

Several of Lawrence and Lee's plays draw on events from United States history to speak to contemporary issues. Inherit the Wind (1955) addressed intellectual freedom and McCarthyism by speaking of a fictionalized Scopes Monkey Trial. The Gang's All Here (1959) examined government corruption in the 1920s.

The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail (1970) was a Vietnam-era exploration of Thoreau's resistance to an earlier war. The Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute, a theater research facility and archive was dedicated in Lawrence and Lee's honor at the Ohio State University in 1986. He is buried in Forest Lawn – Hollywood Hills Cemetery.


  • They also adapted Auntie Mame into the hit musical Mame with composer Jerry Herman, which won a Tony Award for its star, Angela Lansbury.



Married Janet Waldo, March 29, 1948. Children: Jonathan, Lucy.

Claire Melvin Lee

Elvira (Taft) Lee

Janet Waldo

Jonathan Lee

Lucy Lee