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Robert E. Sherwood

The Playwright in Peace and War
An insightful biography of a Pulitzer Prize–winning writer who struggled to reconcile his principles and his politics

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One of the nation's first film critics, an acclaimed speechwriter on his own and for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a propagandist during World War II, and a leading producer on Broadway, Robert E. Sherwood scripted some of the most popular plays and films of his day, including Waterloo Bridge, The Best Years of Our Lives, Idiot's Delight, Abe Lincoln in Illinois, and Rebecca. His work brought him four Pulitzer Prizes and an Oscar. In his personal life, however, he was driven by a deep conviction that war was a societal evil that must be eradicated and human rights a moral responsibility that all governments should protect. At times, his belief in pacifism and his commitment to defending freedom and justice came into conflict with each other, causing frustration and emotional trauma which found their way into his writings and actions.

In this book, Harriet Hyman Alonso unravels Sherwood's inner struggle and portrays his political journey. Relying largely on his letters, diaries, plays, films, essays, and biography of Roosevelt and Harry Hopkins, she traces Sherwood's obsession with the world of politics and its effects on his life and art, from his experience as a soldier in World War I to the Cold War. She also describes his participation in the Algonquin Round Table, his friendships and working relationships with such notables as Alfred Lunt, Lynn Fontanne, Edna Ferber, Spencer Tracy, Harry Hopkins, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, his two marriages and uneasy relationship with his daughter, and his leadership role in the Broadway community.

Alonso brings together history, theater and film studies, and peace studies in this interdisciplinary political biography. In the process, she illuminates major currents in U.S. foreign policy, society, and culture from 1896 to 1955—the years of the remarkable life of Robert E. Sherwood.

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