John O'Hara

Active - 1940 - 1960  |   Born - Jan 31, 1905   |   Died - Apr 11, 1970   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy

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Biography by Mike Cummings

John O'Hara received high critical acclaim for his short stories, more than 200 of which appeared in The New Yorker. But it was mainly his novels, though mostly of dubious literary merit, that won him the attention of Hollywood. Their focus on ambition, class conflict, money, troubled marriages, and promiscuity was the stuff of film melodrama in mid-20th century America, and producers turned several novels into major motion pictures, including Butterfield 8, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Laurence Harvey; Ten North Frederick, starring Gary Cooper and Geraldine Fitzgerald; From the Terrace, starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward; and The Best Things in Life Are Free, starring Gordon MacRae and Dan Dailey. Broadway used a series of short stories O'Hara wrote to produce the script for a Rodgers and Hart musical, Pal Joey, featuring three of the most popular show songs ever written: "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered," "My Funny Valentine," and "The Lady Is a Tramp." Hollywood later produced a film version of Pal Joey, starring Frank Sinatra, Rita Hayworth, and Kim Novak. O'Hara was born on January 31, 1905, in Pottsville, PA. Though he left town at age 22 never to return, he based more than 50 short stories and eight novels on life in Pottsville, a burgeoning coal town when he was growing up. In his novels, he called it Gibbsville and used real-life residents of the town -- often only thinly disguised -- to populate his stories. Because he embarrassed townspeople with his tales exposing their way of life and because he openly lobbied for critical notice -- even promoting himself as a candidate for the Nobel Prize -- O'Hara was never popular in Pottsville. Most critics regard his short stories as first rate and his novels as second rate, although his novel Appointment in Samarra, published in 1934, appears on some lists of top 100 American novels. O'Hara died on April 11, 1970, in Princeton, NJ.

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