Robert E. Sherwood
Robert Emmet Sherwood was an American playwright
A playwright, also called a dramatist, is a person who writes plays.The term is not a variant spelling of "playwrite", but something quite distinct: the word wright is an archaic English term for a craftsman or builder...

, editor
Editing is the process of selecting and preparing written, visual, audible, and film media used to convey information through the processes of correction, condensation, organization, and other modifications performed with an intention of producing a correct, consistent, accurate, and complete...

, and screenwriter
Screenwriters or scriptwriters or scenario writers are people who write/create the short or feature-length screenplays from which mass media such as films, television programs, Comics or video games are based.-Profession:...



Born in New Rochelle, New York
New Rochelle, New York
New Rochelle is a city in Westchester County, New York, United States, in the southeastern portion of the state.The town was settled by refugee Huguenots in 1688 who were fleeing persecution in France...

, he was a son of Arthur Murray Sherwood, a rich stockbroker, and his wife, the former Rosina Emmet, a well-known illustrator and portrait painter known as Rosina E. Sherwood. He was a great-great-grandson of the former New York State Attorney General
New York State Attorney General
The New York State Attorney General is the chief legal officer of the State of New York. The office has been in existence in some form since 1626, under the Dutch colonial government of New York.The current Attorney General is Eric Schneiderman...

 Thomas Addis Emmet
Thomas Addis Emmet
Thomas Addis Emmet was an Irish and American lawyer and politician. He was a senior member of the revolutionary republican group United Irishmen in the 1790s and New York State Attorney General 1812–1813.-Background:...

 and a great-grandnephew of the Irish nationalist Robert Emmet
Robert Emmet
Robert Emmet was an Irish nationalist and Republican, orator and rebel leader born in Dublin, Ireland...

 who was executed for high treason in an abortive rebellion attempt against the British. His aunts included the notable American portrait artists Lydia Field Emmet
Lydia Field Emmet
Lydia Field Emmet was an American artist best known for her work as a portraitist. She studied with, among others, prominent artists such as William Merritt Chase, Henry Siddons Mowbray, Kenyon Cox and Tony Robert-Fleury...

, Jane Emmet de Glehn
Jane Emmet de Glehn
-Early life:Born in New Rochelle, New York, she was the youngest daughter of ten siblings. Her great-great-uncle Robert Emmet was a notable Irish nationalist who was hanged in 1803 for high treason by the British court for his attempt to implement an abortive Irish rebellion...

 and his first cousin, once removed, was artist Ellen Emmet Rand.

Sherwood was educated at Milton Academy
Milton Academy
Milton Academy is a coeducational, independent preparatory, boarding and day school in Milton, Massachusetts consisting of a grade 9–12 Upper School and a grade K–8 Lower School. Boarding is offered starting in 9th grade...

 and then Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

. He fought with the Canadian Black Watch in Europe during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 and was wounded. After his return to the U.S., he began working as a movie critic
Film criticism
Film criticism is the analysis and evaluation of films, individually and collectively. In general, this can be divided into journalistic criticism that appears regularly in newspapers, and other popular, mass-media outlets and academic criticism by film scholars that is informed by film theory and...

 for such magazine
Magazines, periodicals, glossies or serials are publications, generally published on a regular schedule, containing a variety of articles. They are generally financed by advertising, by a purchase price, by pre-paid magazine subscriptions, or all three...

s as Life
Life (magazine)
Life generally refers to three American magazines:*A humor and general interest magazine published from 1883 to 1936. Time founder Henry Luce bought the magazine in 1936 solely so that he could acquire the rights to its name....

and Vanity Fair
Vanity Fair (magazine)
Vanity Fair is a magazine of pop culture, fashion, and current affairs published by Condé Nast. The present Vanity Fair has been published since 1983 and there have been editions for four European countries as well as the U.S. edition. This revived the title which had ceased publication in 1935...

. The career of Robert E. Sherwood as a critic in the 1920s is discussed in For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism
For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism
For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism is a 2009 documentary film dramatizing a hundred years of American film criticism through film clips, historic photographs, and on-camera interviews with many of today’s important reviewers, mostly print but also Internet...

by Time critic Richard Schickel
Richard Schickel
Richard Warren Schickel is an American author, journalist, and documentary filmmaker. He is a film critic for Time magazine, having also written for Life magazine and the Los Angeles Times Book Review....

 who also tells how Sherwood was the first New York critic invited to Hollywood by cross-country train to meet the stars and directors.


Sherwood was one of the original members of the Algonquin Round Table
Algonquin Round Table
The Algonquin Round Table was a celebrated group of New York City writers, critics, actors and wits. Gathering initially as part of a practical joke, members of "The Vicious Circle", as they dubbed themselves, met for lunch each day at the Algonquin Hotel from 1919 until roughly 1929...

. He was close friends with Dorothy Parker
Dorothy Parker
Dorothy Parker was an American poet, short story writer, critic and satirist, best known for her wit, wisecracks, and eye for 20th century urban foibles....

 and Robert Benchley
Robert Benchley
Robert Charles Benchley was an American humorist best known for his work as a newspaper columnist and film actor...

, who were on the staff of Vanity Fair with Sherwood when the Round Table began meeting in 1919. Author Edna Ferber
Edna Ferber
Edna Ferber was an American novelist, short story writer and playwright. Her novels were especially popular and included the Pulitzer Prize-winning So Big , Show Boat , and Giant .-Early years:Ferber was born August 15, 1885, in Kalamazoo, Michigan,...

 was also a good friend.

Sherwood stood six feet eight inches tall. Dorothy Parker, who was five-feet four-inches, once commented that when she, Sherwood, and Robert Benchley (who was six feet tall) would walk down the street together, they looked like "a walking pipe organ." When asked at a party how long he had known Sherwood, Robert Benchley stood on a chair, raised his hand to the ceiling, and said, "I knew Bob Sherwood back when he was only this tall."

Sherwood's first play, The Road to Rome in 1927 was greeted with success. The play is a comedy
Comedy , as a popular meaning, is any humorous discourse or work generally intended to amuse by creating laughter, especially in television, film, and stand-up comedy. This must be carefully distinguished from its academic definition, namely the comic theatre, whose Western origins are found in...

 concerning Hannibal's botched invasion
An invasion is a military offensive consisting of all, or large parts of the armed forces of one geopolitical entity aggressively entering territory controlled by another such entity, generally with the objective of either conquering, liberating or re-establishing control or authority over a...

 of Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

. One of the underlying themes
Theme (literature)
A theme is a broad, message, or moral of a story. The message may be about life, society, or human nature. Themes often explore timeless and universal ideas and are almost always implied rather than stated explicitly. Along with plot, character,...

 of this work is the stupidity of war. This is a recurrent motif in many of his dramatic works including his Idiot's Delight
Idiot's Delight (play)
Idiot's Delight is a 1936 play written by American playwright Robert E. Sherwood. The original Broadway production was presented by The Theatre Guild and starred Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. It was awarded the 1936 Pulitzer Prize for drama, the first of three that Sherwood received...

of 1936 which won the first of his four Pulitzer Prize
Pulitzer Prize
The Pulitzer Prize is a U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition. It was established by American publisher Joseph Pulitzer and is administered by Columbia University in New York City...

s. According to legend, he once admitted to the gossip columnist Lucius Beebe
Lucius Beebe
Lucius Morris Beebe was an American author, gourmand, photographer, railroad historian, journalist, and syndicated columnist.-Early life and education:...

: “The trouble with me is that I start with a big message and end up with nothing but good entertainment.”

In addition to his work for the stage, Sherwood also was in demand in Hollywood
Hollywood, Los Angeles, California
Hollywood is a famous district in Los Angeles, California, United States situated west-northwest of downtown Los Angeles. Due to its fame and cultural identity as the historical center of movie studios and movie stars, the word Hollywood is often used as a metonym of American cinema...

. He began writing for the silver screen
Silver screen
A silver screen, also known as a silver lenticular screen, is a type of projection screen that was popular in the early years of the motion picture industry and passed into popular usage as a metonym for the cinema industry...

 in 1926. While some of his work is uncredited, his films include many adaptations of his plays.

Robert E. Sherwood worked with Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock
Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, KBE was a British film director and producer. He pioneered many techniques in the suspense and psychological thriller genres. After a successful career in British cinema in both silent films and early talkies, Hitchcock moved to Hollywood...

 and Hitchcock's assistant Joan Harrison in Rebecca (1940). Robert E. Sherwood and Joan Harrison wrote the screenplay for Rebecca. Robert E. Sherwood's close friends Robert Benchley and Dorothy Parker also worked with Alfred Hitchcock. Robert Benchley played Stebbins in Alfred Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent
Foreign Correspondent (film)
Foreign Correspondent is a 1940 American spy thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock which tells the story of an American reporter who tries to expose enemy spies in Britain, a series of events involving a continent-wide conspiracy that eventually leads to the events of a fictionalized World War...

(1940). Alfred Hitchcock allowed Benchley to write his own lines for his character Stebbins. And Dorothy Parker worked with Alfred Hitchcock as screenwriter in Saboteur
Saboteur (film)
Saboteur is a 1942 Universal film directed by Alfred Hitchcock with a screenplay written by Peter Viertel, Joan Harrison, and Dorothy Parker. The movie stars Priscilla Lane, Robert Cummings, and Norman Lloyd...


With Europe in the midst of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, Sherwood changed his anti-war stance and supported American involvement against the Third Reich. His 1940 play, There Shall Be No Night
There Shall Be No Night
There Shall Be No Night is a three-act play written by American playwright Robert E. Sherwood. The play was presented by the Theatre Guild from April 29 through November 2, 1940, at Broadway's Alvin Theatre...

told the story of the Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n invasion of Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

. The play was produced by the Theatre Guild in 1940 and starred Alfred Lunt
Alfred Lunt
Alfred Lunt was an American stage director and actor, often identified for a long-time professional partnership with his wife, actress Lynn Fontanne...

 and Lynn Fontanne
Lynn Fontanne
Lynn Fontanne was a British actress and major stage star in the United States for over 40 years. She teamed with her husband Alfred Lunt.She lived in the United States for more than 60 years but never relinquished her British citizenship. Lunt and Fontanne shared a special Tony Award in 1970...

 and featured Montgomery Clift
Montgomery Clift
Edward Montgomery Clift was an American film and stage actor. The New York Times’ obituary noted his portrayal of "moody, sensitive young men"....

. A TV Adaptation was broadcast on NBC
The National Broadcasting Company is an American commercial broadcasting television network and former radio network headquartered in the GE Building in New York City's Rockefeller Center with additional major offices near Los Angeles and in Chicago...

 on March 17, 1957 produced by and starring the actress Katharine Cornell
Katharine Cornell
Katharine Cornell was an American stage actress, writer, theater owner and producer. She was born to American parents and raised in Buffalo, New York.Cornell is known as the greatest American stage actress of the 20th century...


His patriotism
Patriotism is a devotion to one's country, excluding differences caused by the dependencies of the term's meaning upon context, geography and philosophy...

 led him to work as a speechwriter
A speechwriter is a person who is hired to prepare and write speeches that will be delivered by another person. Speechwriters are used by many senior-level elected officials and executives in the government and private sectors.-Skills and training:...

 for President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt , also known by his initials, FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States and a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war...

. He recounted this period with his book Roosevelt and Hopkins which won a Pulitzer Prize
Pulitzer Prize
The Pulitzer Prize is a U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition. It was established by American publisher Joseph Pulitzer and is administered by Columbia University in New York City...

 and a Bancroft Prize
Bancroft Prize
The Bancroft Prize is awarded each year by the trustees of Columbia University for books about diplomacy or the history of the Americas. It was established in 1948 by a bequest from Frederic Bancroft...

 in 1949.

Sherwood is credited with originating the phrase which came to be shortened as the 'arsenal of democracy' and later used by Franklin Roosevelt in his speeches. Sherwood had been quoted on May 12, 1940 by the New York Times, "this country is already, in effect, an arsenal for the democratic Allies." Although the French economist, Jean Monnet
Jean Monnet
Jean Omer Marie Gabriel Monnet was a French political economist and diplomat. He is regarded by many as a chief architect of European Unity and is regarded as one of its founding fathers...

 had allegedly used the phrase later in 1940, "arsenal of democracy," he was urged not to use it again so Franklin Roosevelt could make use of it in his speeches.

Sherwood also served for a time as Director of the
Office of War Information
United States Office of War Information
The United States Office of War Information was a U.S. government agency created during World War II to consolidate government information services. It operated from June 1942 until September 1945...

He returned to dramatic writing after the war and produced his memorable script for the film The Best Years of Our Lives
The Best Years of Our Lives
The Best Years of Our Lives is a 1946 American drama film directed by William Wyler, and starring Fredric March, Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, and Harold Russell, a United States paratrooper who lost both hands in a military training accident. The film is about three United States...

which was directed by William Wyler
William Wyler
William Wyler was a leading American motion picture director, producer, and screenwriter.Notable works included Ben-Hur , The Best Years of Our Lives , and Mrs. Miniver , all of which won Wyler Academy Awards for Best Director, and also won Best Picture...

. The 1946 film explores how the lives of three servicemen
A soldier is a member of the land component of national armed forces; whereas a soldier hired for service in a foreign army would be termed a mercenary...

 have been changed after they return home from war. For this film, Sherwood was given an Academy Award for Best Screenplay.

Sherwood died of a heart attack
Myocardial infarction
Myocardial infarction or acute myocardial infarction , commonly known as a heart attack, results from the interruption of blood supply to a part of the heart, causing heart cells to die...

 in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 in 1955.

Film portrayal

Sherwood was portrayed by the actor Nick Cassavetes in the 1994 film Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle
Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle
Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle is a 1994 film scripted by writer/director Alan Rudolph and former Washington Star reporter Randy Sue Coburn...



  • The Road to Rome (1927)
  • The Love Nest (1927)
  • The Queen's Husband (1928) - adapted into the 1931 film The Royal Bed
    The Royal Bed
    The Royal Bed is a 1931 satirical comedy film produced by Henry Hobart and William LeBaron and distributed through RKO. The film stars Lowell Sherman and Mary Astor. It is based on a 1928 play by Robert E. Sherwood, called The Queen's Husband...

  • Waterloo Bridge
    Waterloo Bridge (play)
    Waterloo Bridge: A play in two acts is a 1930 play by Robert E. Sherwood. It premiered on Broadway January 6, 1930 and ran until March 1930. It was the basis for three separate films: Waterloo Bridge , Waterloo Bridge , and Gaby...

    (1930) - adapted into a 1931 film and two soap-operas in Brazil
    Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

    . Another film was made in 1940 with Vivien Leigh and Robert Taylor.
  • This is New York (1930) - adapted into the 1932 film Two Kinds of Women.
  • Reunion in Vienna
    Reunion in Vienna
    Reunion in Vienna is a 1933 romantic drama produced and distributed by MGM. Sidney Franklin served as director. The film stars John Barrymore in a story taken from a stage play, Reunion in Vienna, by Robert Emmet Sherwood. -Cast:...

    (1931) - adapted into a 1933 film.
  • Acropolis
    Acropolis (play)
    Acropolis is a 1933 play by American playwright Robert E. Sherwood....

  • The Petrified Forest
    The Petrified Forest
    The Petrified Forest is a 1936 American film, starring Leslie Howard, Bette Davis, and Humphrey Bogart. A precursor of film noir, it was adapted from Robert E. Sherwood's 1936 stage play of the same name...

    (1935) - adapted into 1936 film with Leslie Howard
    Leslie Howard (actor)
    Leslie Howard was an English stage and film actor, director, and producer. Among his best-known roles was Ashley Wilkes in Gone with the Wind and roles in Berkeley Square , Of Human Bondage , The Scarlet Pimpernel , The Petrified Forest , Pygmalion , Intermezzo , Pimpernel Smith...

     and Bette Davis
    Bette Davis
    Ruth Elizabeth "Bette" Davis was an American actress of film, television and theater. Noted for her willingness to play unsympathetic characters, she was highly regarded for her performances in a range of film genres, from contemporary crime melodramas to historical and period films and occasional...

  • Tovarich (1935) - from a French comedy by Jacques Deval - adapted into a 1937 film
    Tovarich (film)
    Tovarich is a 1937 American comedy film directed by Anatole Litvak, based on the 1935 play by Robert E. Sherwood, which in turn was based on the 1933 French play Tovaritsch by Jacques Deval. It was produced by Litvak through Warner Bros., with Robert Lord as associate producer and Hal B. Wallis...

    , and a 1963 musical with Vivien Leigh and Jean Pierre Aumont.
  • Idiot's Delight
    Idiot's Delight (play)
    Idiot's Delight is a 1936 play written by American playwright Robert E. Sherwood. The original Broadway production was presented by The Theatre Guild and starred Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. It was awarded the 1936 Pulitzer Prize for drama, the first of three that Sherwood received...

    (1936) Pulitzer Prize for Drama - adapted into 1939 film.
  • Abe Lincoln in Illinois
    Abe Lincoln in Illinois (play)
    Abe Lincoln in Illinois is a play written by the American playwright Robert E. Sherwood in 1938. The play, in three acts, covers the life of President Abraham Lincoln from his childhood through his final speech in Illinois before he left for Washington. The play also covers his romance with Mary...

    (1938) Pulitzer Prize for Drama - adapted into 1940 film. See Abe Lincoln in Illinois (film)
    Abe Lincoln in Illinois (film)
    Abe Lincoln in Illinois is a 1940 biographical film which tells the story of the life of Abraham Lincoln from his departure from Kentucky until his election as President of the United States....

  • There Shall Be No Night
    There Shall Be No Night
    There Shall Be No Night is a three-act play written by American playwright Robert E. Sherwood. The play was presented by the Theatre Guild from April 29 through November 2, 1940, at Broadway's Alvin Theatre...

    (1940) Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
  • The Rugged Path (1945)
  • Miss Liberty
    Miss Liberty
    Miss Liberty is a musical with a book by Robert E. Sherwood and music and lyrics by Irving Berlin. It is based on the sculpting of the Statue of Liberty in 1886...

    (1949) - book for Irving Berlin musical - score includes Berlin's setting of Emma Lazarus's poem "The New Colossus" ("Give me your tired, your poor").
  • Small War on Murray Hill (1957) - produced posthumously.

External links

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