Donald Ogden Stewart

Active - 1926 - 1960  |   Born - Nov 30, 1894   |   Died - Aug 2, 1980   |   Genres - Drama, Romance, Comedy, Comedy Drama

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Had he so chosen, Ohio-born Donald Ogden Stewart could have lived the life of a wealthy socialite instead of playing such characters on stage. Educated at Yale, Stewart was well-off enough to indulge in his hobby of writing on a professional basis; he wrote several satirical novels that were a hit amongst the "smart set" of the '20s. Fellow Yale grad Philip Barry wrote the part of Nick Potter in the 1928 play Holiday with Stewart in mind, and with but a little persuasion convinced his friend to star in the play on Broadway. Stewart continued acting on stage in the company of long-time pals Elliott Nugent and Robert Montgomery, all of them adept at playing witty young sprouts in dinner jackets. He flirted with films from 1925 onward, when he was hired to adapt his own novel Brown of Harvard to the screen. Stewart made his talkie bow in a supporting role in the Marion Davies vehicle Not So Dumb (1929); after that, his contributions to the screen were primarily focused on writing, aside from a few bit parts in his own films. Most often, Stewart was called in to provide additional dialogue in order to punch up a too-serious script; in this capacity, Stewart contributed to Smilin' Through (1932) Dinner at Eight (1933), and The Prisoner of Zenda (1937). In 1940 he won an Academy Award for adapting his friend Philip Barry's play The Philadelphia Story to the screen. Stewart's screenwriting career flourished until the end of the '40s, at which time he was blacklisted for being a "premature anti-fascist" in the years before World War II. Forced to resettle professionally in London, Stewart's screenwriting assignments diminished, and he returned to penning books and articles; his bitterness over his treatment during the Hollywood witchhunt severly affected his ability to be funny in his latter-day works. After recovering from a near-fatal stroke, Donald Ogden Stewart gained a new appreciation of the good things in life, which he recorded in his 1974 autobiography A Stroke of Luck.

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