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Alexander Humphreys Woollcott (January 19, 1887 – January 23, 1943) was a theater critic and American commentator on The New Yorker magazine, and a member of the Algonquin Roundtable. < / p>
Woollcott served as inspiration for Sheridan Whiteside, main character in the play The Man Who Came to Dinner by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, and for the no less unpleasant character Waldo Lydecker in the classic film Laura. Woollcott also claimed that Rex Stout was inspired by him to create his brilliant detective Nero Wolfe, but Stout denied it.
Woollcott wrote the critique of The Marx Brothers’ Broadway debut, I’ll Say She Is, and became a pivotal piece in the rebirth of the comedy group’s career. He began a long and close friendship with one of its components, Harpo Marx. One of Harpo’s adopted sons was named Alexander in homage to the critic.
A controversial and devastating theatrical critic, he was one of the most influential people on the artistic scene in the first half of the 20th century.
Nicknamed Aleck , Woollcott was born in Phalanx, New Jersey near Red Bank, New Jersey and graduated from Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. With twenty years he contracted a parotitis that left him partially, if not completely, impotent. She never married or had children, although she had numerous friends, including people like Dorothy Parker or Neysa McMein, whom she proposed a day after marrying her new husband, Jack Baragwanath.
Woollcott was born in an 85-room house, a vast ramshackle building that had been a commune. It was called the North American Phalanx and it was in Phalanx (New Jersey). There were many social experiments in the mid-1800s, some more successful than others. When The Phalanx failed after a fire in 1854, it was taken over by the Bucklin family, Woollcott’s maternal grandparents. There, among his extended family, Woollcott spent much of his childhood. His father was an irresponsible Cockney who went adrift through various trades, sometimes spending long periods away from his wife and children. Poverty was always close to his hand.
The Bucklins and the Woollcotts were avid readers, giving young Aleck a life-long love of literature, especially the works of Charles Dickens. Thanks to a friend of the family, Dr. Alexander Humphreys (for whom he was called Alexander), Woollcott went to college, graduating from Hamilton College, in upstate New York, in 1909. There, despite his poor reputation (his nickname was “Putrid”) founded a theater group, edited the student literary magazine and was accepted by a fraternity.
He was one of the most prolific theater critics of The New York Times and was a serious character whose biting sharpness merrily appealing or vehemently rehearsed by the artistic communities of the 1920s in Manhattan. He was banned for a time from reviewing certain Broadway shows, and as a result he sued the Shubert theater organization for the violation of the Civil Rights of an Act in New York, but lost in the highest state court in 1916 on the subject of that only discrimination based on race, creed or color was illegal.From 1929 to 1934 Woollcott wrote a column called “Screams and Rumors” for The New Yorker. He was frequently criticized for his colorful and flowery writing style and in contrast to his contemporaries James Thurber and S. J. Perelman, he is currently read, though his book, While Rome Burns, published by Grosset & amp; Dunlap in 1934, was nicknamed in 1954 by the critic Vincent Starrett as one of the 52 “Most Beloved Books of the Twentieth Century”.
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