Born in Texas, Joshua Logan was raised in Louisiana by his widowed mother. After attending military school, Logan was accepted at Princeton University, where he organized the University Players, an ambitious summer-stock troupe. Among the Players were such future luminaries as Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda, Margaret Sullavan and Myron McCormick, all of whom would work again with Logan after attaining fame. In the early 1930s, Logan was granted a scholarship to study acting and directing with Stanislavsky in Moscow; he later claimed that the most valuable lesson he learned from Stanislavsky was to respect, above all else, the words written down by the playwright. In 1932, Logan made his Broadway acting bow in Carrie Nation, thereafter concentrating on writing and directing.
In 1936, David O. Selznick brought Logan to Hollywood to work as a dialogue director, then co-director (with Arthur Ripley) on the 1938 feature I Met My Love Again, which reunited him with Henry Fonda. Then it was back to Broadway--again as director and playwright--and a brace of hits: On Borrowed Time and I Married an Angel. After World War II service with the Air Force's Combat Intelligence division, Logan resumed his Broadway career with even greater success, directing and/or co-scripting such successes as Annie Get Your Gun, Mister Roberts, South Pacific, Mister Roberts and Fanny. Though not keen on returning to moviemaking, Logan was forced to take over direction of the 1955 film version of Mister Roberts when John Ford fell ill. He went on to direct the popular cinemadaptations of William Inge's Picnic (1955) and Bus Stop (1956), and earned an Academy Award nomination for his work on Sayonara (1957). His much-anticipated movie version of South Pacific (1958), though a financial success, proved an artistic failure due to Logan's insistence upon using (or overusing) garishly tinted lenses during the musical numbers. Thereafter, his filmwork took a downward slide: while Tall Story (1960) came out fine, Fanny (1961) was a disappointment, Ensign Pulver (1964) a brave misfire, and Camelot (1967) and Paint Your Wagon (1969) out-and-out failures. He re-emerged in the public's consciousness with his 1976 autobiography, Josh: My Up-and-Down, In-and-Out Life. Among other things, the book dwelled upon Logan's lifelong battle with manic depression, which in later years he kept effectively under control with medication. In 1978, he published a second volume of recollections, Movie Stars, Real People, and Me. Joshua Logan was married twice, to actresses Barbara O'Neill and Nedda Harrigan; in 1977, he and Harrigan made their nightclub performing debut in "Musical Moments," a medley of songs from Logan's Broadway hits.