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George S. Kaufman - A Rare Glimpse - Part 2

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Uploaded on Jul 31, 2009

This is an extremely rare film, possibly the only one in existence, which gives us a living glimpse of Pulitzer Prize winning playwright George S. Kaufman (1889-1961), one of the pioneer geniuses of modern American popular culture.

A founding member in the 1920s of the world famous group of writers and actors known as the Algonquin Round Table, he was arguably the greatest American wit of most of the 20th Century and was certainly the most commercially successful playwright of his time, writing hit after comic hit beginning in the 1920s and running all the way in the 1950s. He is widely considered to be the inventor of the "wise crack".

In 1931 he won the Pulitzer Prize for the ground-breaking political satire "Of Thee I Sing" to which the Gershwin brothers wrote the music. He was the comic voice behind some of the Marx Brothers' greatest films and the inspiration for countless comedy writers and playwrights, especially Woody Allen. Groucho Marx considered him the greatest comic playwright in history. His acerbic and glum demeanor resulted in him often being referred to in the show biz papers as "The Gloomy Dean Of Broadway".

He was also highly respected as the finest "play doctor" in the country, often brought in by desperate producers to use his matchless editing and directing skills to fix failing shows all over the nation. If it didn't work after Kaufman got hold of it, it was a flop through and through.

In the later years of his life he was a regular panel member on a primitive early CBS television show "This Is Show Business", and that's how we see him here in 1953. Also seen in this installment are host Clifton Fadiman, Sam Levinson, Betty Furness, and an extremely young Larry Storch and Mel Torme. The show is not much to speak of, but it is fascinating indeed to see Kaufman himself, in the flesh.

During the show, Kaufman plugs the approaching debut of his last great stage hit, "The Solid Gold Cadillac", which reached Broadway in November 1953 and ran for over 500 performances. Kaufman died in New York in 1961, mourned by Broadway and Hollywood alike.

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