of the Day
Clue of the Month
American socialist playwright, screenwriter, and social
clues: “Golden Boy” author; Dramatist Clifford;
for Lefty" playwright; American playwright; "Awake and
2 times a year
Life shouldn't be
printed on dollar bills
~ Clifford Odets
Clifford Odets (July
18, 1906 – August 18, 1963) was an American socialist
playwright, screenwriter, and social protester.
was born in Philadelphia of Jewish immigrant parents and raised
in the Bronx, New York. He dropped out of high school to pursue
acting. He helped found the Group Theatre, an influential
left-wing theatre company that specialized in experimental
acting. He joined the Communist Party in 1934, although he left
it after eight months.
After briefly trying acting, Odets
decided to become the Group Theatre's first original playwright.
At the urging of Group co-founder Harold Clurman, he wrote Awake
in 1935. Although his first play, it is often considered his
masterpiece. It follows the story of a large Jewish family in New
York, with the conclusion that Marxism is the only way for the
working class to find any dignity.
Mainly due to
misgivings from Group leader Lee Strasberg, Awake
was not produced right away. Odets' first play to actually be
produced was the one-act play Waiting
This is a series of interconnected scenes depicting workers for a
fictional taxi company. The focus alternates between the drivers'
union meeting and vignettes from their difficult, oppressed
lives. The climax is a defiant call for the union to strike. The
play can be performed in any acting space, including union
meeting halls and on the street. The wild success of this play
brought Odets unexpected fame and fortune. Odets would soon move
to Hollywood to begin writing for the screen as well as the
These plays, along with Odets' other major Group
Theatre plays of the 1930s, are harsh criticisms of the
capitalist class in the Great Depression. They have been
dismissed by some critics as mere propaganda, but Odets asserted
that all of his plays deal with the human spirit persevering in
the face of all opponents, whether they be the capitalist class
or not. In later years, Odets' plays became more reflective and
autobiographical, although class consciousness was ever in the
In 1953, Odets was investigated by Joseph
McCarthy and called before the House Un-American Activities
Committee (HUAC). He disavowed his communist affiliations and
cooperated by "naming names"; as a result, he did not
share the fate of many of his colleagues who were
Odets' dramatic style is distinguished by a
kind of poetic, metaphor-laden street talk, by his socialist
politics, and by his way of dropping the audience right into the
conflict with little or no introduction. Often character is more
important than plot, which Odets attributed to the influence of
Anton Chekhov. In general, Odets' political statements show a
rather naive view of Marxism that might be expected in the 1930s;
for example, he often points to the Soviet Union as an example of
a perfect socialist state, not the land of violence and poverty
that we now know it was.
His first wife was actress Luise
Rainer; his second wife was actress Bette
and he also had a relationship with actress Frances Farmer. He
died of cancer at the age of 57 in 1963.
article is licensed under the GNU
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It uses material from the Wikipedia
article "Clifford Odets".
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