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Gardner, Herb(ert George) 1934-2003

GARDNER, Herb(ert George) 1934-2003


See index for CA sketch: Born December 28, 1934, in Brooklyn, NY; died of lung disease September 24, 2003, in Manhattan, NY. Author. Gardner was a playwright of Broadway hits, such as A Thousand Clowns and I'm Not Rappaport, who also wrote and directed screenplays. The son of a bar owner who operated his establishment on the lower east side of New York City, Gardner found the material for what would become his comical, quirky New York characters in the bar's patrons; his love of theater was heightened by an early job working at the National Theater and Cort Theater, where he served drinks and checked coats. Graduating from the High School for Performing Arts, Gardner also attended the Carnegie Institute of Technology and Antioch College. Interestingly, his first success as a creative artist was not as a playwright but as a cartoonist. While working for the Bliss Display Company as a doll sculptor, he got the idea to create The Nebbishes, a series of cartoons about hapless, comical characters that at one point ran in sixty newspapers nationwide. Gardner abandoned the strip in 1960, however, to focus on writing plays. He had already had one play, 1952's The Elevator, to his credit, as well as a novel, 1958's A Piece of the Action, by the time he turned to playwriting full time. In 1962 his A Thousand Clowns was produced to great acclaim, winning the New York Drama Critics award and receiving an Antoinette Perry ("Tony") Award nomination in 1963. Gardner would also write the screenplay version, which was released by United Artists in 1965. The playwright followed this early success with The Goodbye People, (1968), Thieves (1974), Life and/or Death (1979), and One Night Stand (1980). These plays did not receive as much praise as A Thousand Clowns, but Gardner won plaudits with I'm Not Rappaport (1986), which won him another Tony Award, and Conversations with My Father (1991). The Goodbye People, Thieves, and I'm Not Rappaport were also adapted by Gardner for the silver screen, and he directed The Goodbye People and I'm Not Rappaport. In addition, he wrote Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things about Me? (1971) and the critically maligned—though successful as a cult film—Ishtar (1987), as well as cowriting the Emmy Award-winning television movie Annie: The Women in the Life of a Man (1969).



Contemporary Dramatists, sixth edition, St. James (Detroit, MI), 1999.

Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Volume 39, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2002.


Los Angeles Times, September 26, 2003, p. B12.

New York Times, September 26, 2003, p. A22.

Times (London, England), October 6, 2003.

Washington Post, September 26, 2003, p. B8.

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