George Jean Nathan
George Jean Nathan was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

Drama is the specific mode of fiction represented in performance. The term comes from a Greek word meaning "action" , which is derived from "to do","to act" . The enactment of drama in theatre, performed by actors on a stage before an audience, presupposes collaborative modes of production and a...

A critic is anyone who expresses a value judgement. Informally, criticism is a common aspect of all human expression and need not necessarily imply skilled or accurate expressions of judgement. Critical judgements, good or bad, may be positive , negative , or balanced...

 and editor.

Early life

Nathan was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Fort Wayne is a city in the US state of Indiana and the county seat of Allen County. The population was 253,691 at the 2010 Census making it the 74th largest city in the United States and the second largest in Indiana...

. He graduated from Cornell University
Cornell University
Cornell University is an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York, United States. It is a private land-grant university, receiving annual funding from the State of New York for certain educational missions...

 in 1904, where he was a member of the Quill and Dagger
Quill and Dagger
Quill and Dagger is a senior honor society at Cornell University. It is often recognized as one of the most prominent collegiate societies of its type, along with Skull and Bones of Yale University...

 society, and an editor of The Cornell Daily Sun.

Drama critic career

Noted for the erudition and cynicism of his reviews, Nathan was an early champion of Eugene O'Neill
Eugene O'Neill
Eugene Gladstone O'Neill was an American playwright and Nobel laureate in Literature. His poetically titled plays were among the first to introduce into American drama techniques of realism earlier associated with Russian playwright Anton Chekhov, Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, and Swedish...

. Together with H.L. Mencken, he co-edited the magazine The Smart Set
The Smart Set
The Smart Set was a literary magazine founded in America in March 1900 by Colonel William d'Alton Mann.-History:Mann had previously published Town Topics, a gossip rag which he used for political and social gain among New York City's infamous elite known as "The Four Hundred." With The Smart Set,...

from 1914 and co-founded The American Mercury
The American Mercury
The American Mercury was an American magazine published from 1924 to 1981. It was founded as the brainchild of H. L. Mencken and drama critic George Jean Nathan. The magazine featured writing by some of the most important writers in the United States through the 1920s and 1930s...

in 1924. He was also a founder and an editor (1932–35) of the American Spectator
American Spectator (literary magazine)
The American Spectator was a monthly literary magazine which made its first monthly appearance in November 1932. It was edited by George Jean Nathan, though Eugene O'Neill, Ernest Boyd, Theodore Dreiser, and James Branch Cabell were also listed as joint editors...

, and after 1943 he wrote a syndicated column for the New York Journal-American. He also co-authored with Mencken (under the pseudonym of Owen Hatteras) the autobiographical Pistols for Two.

Over the years, Nathan's criticisms were published in Mr. George Jean Nathan Presents (1917), The Critic and the Drama (1922), The Testament of a Critic (1931), Since Ibsen (1933), Passing Judgments (1935), The World of George Jean Nathan (1952), and The Magic Mirror (1960). Nathan's philosophy of criticism is laid out in Autobiography of an Attitude (1925).

Relationships and marriage

Though he published a paean to The Bachelor Life in 1941, Nathan had a reputation as a "ladies man" -- and one not averse to dating within his field; indeed the character of Addison De Witt, the waspish theater critic who squires a starlet (played by a then-unknown Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe
Marilyn Monroe was an American actress, singer, model and showgirl who became a major sex symbol, starring in a number of commercially successful motion pictures during the 1950s....

) in the film All About Eve
All About Eve
All About Eve is a 1950 American drama film written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, based on the 1946 short story "The Wisdom of Eve", by Mary Orr.The film stars Bette Davis as Margo Channing, a highly regarded but aging Broadway star...

, was based on Nathan. His most famous relationship was reportedly with actress Lillian Gish
Lillian Gish
Lillian Diana Gish was an American stage, screen and television actress whose film acting career spanned 75 years, from 1912 to 1987....

. Their relationship began in the late 1920s and lasted almost a decade, with Gish repeatedly refusing his marriage proposals.

Nathan eventually married considerably younger stage actress Julie Haydon
Julie Haydon
Julie Haydon was an American actress who performed on Broadway and in films.-Early career and films:Born Donella Donaldson in Oak Park, Illinois, Haydon began her acting career when she was 19, touring with Minnie Maddern Fiske in Mrs. Bumstead Leigh...

 in 1955.


"One does not go to the theater to see life and nature; one goes to see the particular way in which life and nature happen to look to a cultivated, imaginative and entertaining man who happens, in turn, to be a playwright."

"Patriotism is an arbitrary veneration of real estate above principles."

"Great art is as irrational as great music. It is mad with its own loveliness." (From his book House of Satan)

"Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote."

"My code of life and conduct is simply this: work hard, play to the allowable limit, disregard equally the good and bad opinion of others, never do a friend a dirty trick, eat and drink what you feel like when you feel like, never grow indignant over anything, trust to tobacco for calm and serenity, bathe twice a day . . . learn to play at least one musical instrument and then play it only in private, never allow one's self even a passing thought of death, never contradict anyone or seek to prove anything to anyone unless one gets paid for it in cold, hard coin, live the moment to the utmost of its possibilities, treat one's enemies with polite inconsideration, avoid persons who are chronically in need, and be satisfied with life always but never with one's self."

"No man can think clearly when his fists are clenched."

"I drink to make other people interesting."

"Opera in English is, in the main, just about as sensible a plea as baseball in Italian."

External links

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