Lawrence, Jerome 1915-2004

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LAWRENCE, Jerome 1915-2004

OBITUARY NOTICE—

See index for CA sketch: Born July 14, 1915, in Cleveland, OH; died of complications from a stroke February 29, 2004, in Malibu, CA. Author. With his writing partner Robert E. Lee, Lawrence penned some of the most popular and acclaimed stage plays in American theatrical history, including Inherit the Wind and Auntie Mame. A graduate of Ohio State University, where he earned a B.A. in 1937, his early career was in journalism. During the late 1930s, Lawrence worked for newspapers and in broadcasting, beginning with jobs at the Wilmington News Journal and New Lexington Daily News, both in Ohio, and then as a continuity editor at KMPC radio in Beverly Hills, California. From 1939 to 1942, he was a senior staff writer for the Columbia Broadcasting System. World War II found Lawrence in the U.S. Army, during which time he was a correspondent and cofounded the Armed Forces Radio Service. It was while he was involved with Armed Forces Radio that Lawrence met Lee. Together, they collaborated on Look Ma, I'm Dancin'!, with music by Hugh Martin, which was produced in 1948. Many more popular Lawrence and Lee plays followed, including Inherit the Wind (1955), Shangri-La (1956), Auntie Mame (1956), which was later reworked as the musical comedy Mame (1966), The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail (1970), and First Monday in October (1975). The next twenty years were a largely quiet time for the playwrights. Lawrence spent much of this period teaching, including as a professor of playwriting and criticism at Baylor University in 1978 and as a professor at the University of Southern California's graduate school, beginning in 1984. He was also cofounder and president of the American Playwrights Theatre in Columbus, Ohio, from 1970 to 1985. Lawrence and Lee collaborated one last time with Whisper in the Mind, which was produced in 1994, the same year Lee passed away. In addition to his work with Lee, Lawrence was the author of the biography Actor: The Life and Times of Paul Muni (1974), as well a number of plays without his partner, such as The Time of the Cuckoo: A Comedy in Two Acts (1983) and Libretto Gypsy: A Musical (1994). As critically acclaimed as he was popular, Lawrence was named to the Theater Hall of Fame in 1990, just one of many honors he earned in his lifetime.

OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:

BOOKS

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

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 228: Twentieth-Century American Dramatists, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2000.

PERIODICALS

Chicago Tribune, March 2, 2004, Section 3, p. 10.

New York Times, March 2, 2004, p. A25.

Washington Post, March 5, 2004, p. B7.

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