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Kaufman and Hart - The Works of Broadway's Legendary Duo

This season's revival of George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's Pulitzer Prize-winning play YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU opens on Broadway tonight, and in honor of the playwriting pair's long list of contributions to the theatre, we've rounded up some of their most notable works.

Kaufman and Hart collaborated over the course of ten years, from 1930 to 1940, and during that time created some of the best long-run hits in the history of the American theatre. And when the men did part ways, it wasn't due to a falling out (like Gilbert and Sullivan) but rather a thirst to prove themselves as independent artists. Following their Broadway heyday, Kaufman and Hart continued to craft plays and screenplays separately but remained best friends until they both passed away in 1961.

Scroll down to learn more about the duo's canon!

Once In A Lifetime


The satirical comedy focuses on the effect talking pictures have on the entertainment industry. When the New York Cityvaudevillean team of Jerry Hyland, May Daniels, and George Lewis find themselves in a faltering vaudeville act, they decide to head west and present themselves as elocution experts in the hope someone will hire them to train actors unaccustomed to speaking on screen. On the train they meet gossip columnist Helen Hobart, who introduces them tomegalomaniac film mogul Herman Glogauer when they arrive in Hollywood.

Notable productions:

Original Broadway (1930)- with Grant Mills, Jean Dixon, Hugh O'Connell, Spring Byington, Charles Halton, Janet Currie, Eugenie Frontai, Sally Phipps, and Kaufman.

Broadway Revival (1978)- with John Lithgow, Deborah May, Treat Williams, Jayne Meadows, George S. Irving, Lee Meredith, Julia Duffy, Michael Jeter, and Max Wright.

London (1979)- with David Suchet, Richard Griffiths, Zoë Wanamaker, Peter McEnery, Ian Charleson, Juliet Stevenson, and David Bradley.

London Revival (2005)- with David Suchet, Adrian Scarborough, and Victoria Hamilton.

Merrily We Roll Along


Richard Niles is a pretentious 40 year old playwright who writes successful but forgettable frothy comedies. Niles is hosting a party for his wealthy friends at his Long Island home on the opening night of his newest play. His life is empty, petty and loveless. The story moves backwards in nine scenes from 1934 to 1916, as Niles achieves success by, bit-by-bit, compromising his integrity and principles. He drives his friend, the novelist Julia Glenn (patterned after Dorothy Parker), to drink; loses his best friend, painter Jonathan Crale; and betrays his wife, the glamorous actress Althea Royce, simply to gain material comforts and satisfy his ambitions. In the final scene, Niles, on graduation day at his college, idealistically quotes the words of Polonius: "This above all, to thine own self be true."

Notable productions:

Orignial Broadway (1934)- with Kenneth MacKenna, Walter Abel, Jessie Royce Landis, and Mary Philips.

Musical adaptation (1981)- with book by George Furth and lyrics and music by Stephen Sondheim.

You Can't Take It With You

*Winner of the Pulitzer Prize


Family can do crazy things to people. And the Sycamore family is a little crazy to begin with. Grandpa Vanderhof is leader of a happily eccentric gang of snake collectors, cunning revolutionaries, ballet dancers and skyrocket makers. But when the youngest daughter brings her fiancé and his buttoned-up parents over for dinner, that's when the real fireworks start to fly.

Notable productions:

Original Broadway (1936)- with Henry Travers, Josephine Hull, Margot Stevenson, Anna Lubowe, and Paula Trueman.

Broadway Revival (1983)- with Jason Robards, Colleen Dewhurst, George Rose and Elizabeth Wilson.

Broadway Revival (2014)- with James Earl Jones, Rose Byrne, Elizabeth Ashley, Annaleigh Ashford, Johanna Day, Julie Halston, Byron Jennings and Kristine Nielsen.

*A fun note -- most of Hart's plays were adapted into films, with Kaufman at the steering wheel. Their adaptation of YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU won Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director.

I'd Rather Be Right


The story, featuring music by Rodgers and Hart, is a Depression-era political satire set in New York City, about Washington politics and political figures, such as President Franklin Roosevelt. The plot centers on Peggy Jones and her boyfriend Phil, who needs a raise in order for them to get married. The President steps in and solves their dilemma.

Notable productions:

Original Broadway (1937)- with Joy Hodges and Austin Marshall.

The Fabulous Invalid

The show is Kaufman & Hart's 1938 valentine based on the birth and decline of New York's legendary New Amsterdam Theatre, home of the Ziegfeld Follies. In The Fabulous Invalid, the New Amsterdam becomes the Alexandria Theatre and runs the gamut from 1903 to 1938; the play is a one-dimensional pageant of Broadway's history seen through the Alexandria's eyes --- its only claim to fame is its title which has been passed on to the Great White Way itself, always in decline and always bouncing back. The show's plot invilves a theatre couple, husband and wife, who die in the Alexandria on its first opening night and are allowed to linger there as ghosts, guided and advised by a celestial Stage Manager.

Notable productions:

Original Broadway (1938)- with Iris Adrian, Albert Amato, Jack Arnold, Bobbe Arnst, and Donald Baker.

The American Way

In 1896, Martin Gunther, a German immigrant, sends for his wife and children so that they may enjoy the advantages of America. the play covers fifty years of their life as Americans. Martin, a cabinet maker, proves to be a man of such strong principles that he gives up a $1,000 order rather than refuse to fill a $1.25 order of a scorned suffragette friend. Later he urges his son Karl to fight against his own German kin in World War I. Martin's honesty and skill are rewarded by prosperous years, but he sacrifices all in 1933 trying to save his benefactor's bank. In 1939, his grandson, Karl, embittered by his inability to find a job, is about to join an fascist organization, when Martin intervenes. While pleading for a renewed faith in Democracy, he is struck down by the mob. Martin dies, as he has lived, an American, fighting for that which gives meaning and richness to life-Freedom.

Notable productions:

Original Broadway (1939)- with Fredric March, Florence Eldridge, Jack Arnold and Whitner Bissell.

The Man Who Came to Dinner


The play is set in the small town of Mesalia, Ohio in the weeks leading to Christmas in the 1930s. The exposition reveals that the famously outlandish radio wit Sheridan Whiteside ('Sherry' to his friends) of New York City was invited to dine at the house of rich factory owner Ernest W. Stanley and his family. However, before Whiteside enters the house, he slips on a patch of ice outside the front door and injures his hip. He is attended by Dr. Bradley, the absent-minded town physician, Miss Preen, his frantic nurse, and Maggie Cutler, his faithful secretary. Confined to the house for a month, Sherry drives his hosts mad by viciously insulting them, monopolizing their house and staff, running up large phone bills, and receiving many bizarre guests, including paroled convicts.

Notable productions:

Original Broadway (1939)- with Virginia Hammond, Mary Wickes, Gordon Merrick, Barbara Wooddell, George Probert, and Priestley Morrison.

London (1941)- with Robert Morley and Coral Browne.

Broadway Revival (1980)- with Ellis Rabb, Roderick Cook, Leonard Frey, Carrie Nye, and Jamey Sheridan.

Broadway Revival (2000)- with Nathan Lane, Jean Smart, Harriet Sansom Harris, and Lewis J. Stadlen.

George Washington Slept Here


The story chronicles the trials and tribulations of Newton Fuller who craves-and gets-"a little place in the country to call his own." Newton and his wife, Annabell, and their daughter, Madge, are hypnotized into taking over one of those windowless, waterless, almost roofless houses that dot the countryside. The ensuing troubles may be summed up by a search for water, a quarrel with a neighbor who owns not only the brook but the very road that leads from the highway to the house, the attempted elopement of the daughter with a summer-theatre actor, and the usual invasion of the weekend guests, including a prodigal uncle who is assumed to be rich but turns out to be just another bankrupt. It is discovered that the neighbor really doesn't own Newton's roadway, and that Newton's wife, who began by showing disgust over her husband's idiocy in wanting to live in the country, decides that he was right all along.

Notable productions:

Original Broadway (1940)- with Jack Benny, Ann Sheridan, Charles Coburn, Percy Kilbride, Hattie McDaniel, William Tracy, and Joyce Reynolds.

Photo Credits: Photo 1 - Joan Marcus | Photo 2 - Wikipedia | Photo 3 - Wikipedia | Photo 4 - You Can't Take It With You Official Site | Photo 5 - Blog | Photo 6 - Amazon | Photo 7 - Amazon | Photo 8 - Roundabout Theatre Company | Photo 9 - Wikipedia.

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