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Rich, Frank 1949- (Frank Hart Rich)

Rich, Frank 1949- (Frank Hart Rich)


Born June 2, 1949, in Washington, DC; son of Frank Hart Rich (a businessman) and Helene Bernice (an educational consultant) Fisher; married Gail Winston, April 25, 1976; married Alexandra Rachelle Witchel (a reporter), June 9, 1991; children: (first marriage) Nathaniel Howard, Simon Hart. Education: Harvard University, A.B., 1971.


Office—New York Times, 229 W. 43rd St, New York, NY 10036-3959.


Richmond Mercury, Richmond, VA, founding coeditor, 1972-73; New Times, New York, NY, senior editor and film critic, 1973-75; New York Post, New York, NY, film critic, 1975-77; Time, New York, NY, cinema and television critic, 1977-80; New York Times, New York, NY, chief drama critic, 1980-93, Op-Ed columnist, 1994-2003, 2005—; New York Times Magazine, senior writer, 1999-2003, associate editor and Sunday Arts & Leisure columnist, 2003—.


(With Lisa Aronson) The Theater Art of Boris Aronson, Knopf (New York, NY), 1987.

Hot Seat: Theater Criticism for the New York Times, 1980-1993, Random House (New York, NY), 1998.

Ghost Light: A Memoir, Random House (New York, NY), 2000.

(With Neal Gabler and Joyce Antler) Television's Changing Image of American Jews, Norman Lear Center, 2000.

The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina, Penguin Press (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor to various anthologies. Contributor to periodicals, including Ms., New Republic, and Esquire.


Frank Rich, who was nicknamed by his enemies the "Butcher of Broadway" during his long tenure as the New York Times drama critic, writes about his childhood infatuation with the theater in the autobiographical Ghost Light: A Memoir. Rich's term as drama critic for New York's most powerful newspaper earned him friends and enemies alike. Those theatrical workers whose plays closed early because of a harsh review from Rich often felt that he had been unfair in his assessment of their work. During his career, he suffered their criticisms, including public attacks by such leading Broadway figures as Andrew Lloyd Webber and David Merrick.

Rich reveals in his memoir that, following the divorce of his parents when he was a child, he was drawn to the world of the theater as a means to escape a lonely and troubled home life. Ghost Light, remarked Hilma Wolitzer in the New York Times, "is a poignant and darkly funny account of a boy's life shaped by difficult circumstances and the consolations of art." James Wolcott, writing in New Republic concluded that Rich's account of his childhood and later life is meant to "watercolor his controversial tenure—the feuds with producers, playwrights, and fellow critics; the accusations of playing favorites and letting power balloon his head—as a fine romance, a tempestuous affair that sometimes got messy. Whatever pain he inflicted as the ‘Butcher of Broadway’ was rooted in ardent devotion." Reviewing the book for Variety, Wendy Smith noted that "Rich's reputation as ‘the Butcher of Broadway’ has perhaps been overstated. During his 13-year tenure … reviews in which he was truly, unfairly nasty were as rare as raves. He seldom offered anything so trivial as a personal response to a production; rather, he instructed readers as to its significance." Dan Wakefield, writing in Nation called Rich's book a "compelling memoir," while James Poniewozik observed in Time noted that Ghost Light revealed that "Rich has a heart, and that heart loves the theater passionately and needily."

When Rich turned his attention to the major controversies of the George W. Bush administration in The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina, several reviewers observed that his expertise in the art of stagecraft made him an especially good analyst of political spin. In the book, a New York Times bestseller, Rich argues that the White House pursued its agenda, including the invasion of Iraq, by creating what was basically a stage play based on falsehoods. As Ian Buruma commented in New York Times Book Review, under Bush "the spinmeisters, fake news reporters, photo-op creators, disinformation experts, intelligence manipulators, fictional heroes and public relations men posing as commentators operate in a world where virtual reality has already threatened to eclipse empirical investigation." Buruma especially admired Rich's criticisms of the media for reporting the administration's version of reality as fact, and concluded that if the press "ever recovers its high reputation, it will be partly thanks to" Rich's book.



Back Stage, October 8, 1993, Amy Hersh, "Frank Rich to Exit—But How Powerful Is the New York Times?," p. 3.

Booklist, August 1, 2000, Jack Helbig, review of Ghost Light: A Memoir, p. 2071; August 1, 2006, Vanessa Bush, review of The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina, p. 5.

Boston Magazine, August, 1982, Howie Carr, "The Man Who Would Beat King," p. 82.

Charlotte Observer, November 5, 2000, Christine Dolen, review of Ghost Light, p. F7.

Chicago Tribune Books, October 1, 2006, Art Winslow, review of The Greatest Story Ever Sold, p. 8.

Editor & Publisher, December 1, 1990, Ann Marie Kerwin, "War of Words: Broadway Producer David Merrick vs. Two New Times Theater Writers," p. 16.

Gentleman's Quarterly, June, 1990, Chip Brown, "The Most Powerful Man on Broadway," p. 172.

Horizon, March, 1984, Gary Stern, "Rich Criticism: Chief New York Times Drama Critic Frank Rich Often Has the First Laugh," p. 44.

House and Garden, October, 1992, "Frank and Alex," p. 128.

Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2000, review of Ghost Light, p. 1105; May 15, 2006, review of The Greatest Story Ever Sold, p. S18; July 15, 2006, review of The Greatest Story Ever Sold, p. 716.

Library Journal, September 1, 2000, Carol J. Binkowski, review of Ghost Light, p. 213; September 15, 2006, Judy Solberg, review of The Greatest Story Ever Sold, p. 68.

Manhattan, Inc., February, 1990, John Heilpern, "He-Devil?," p. 110.

Nation, March 15, 1999, "Tilting at Rumor Mills," p. 10; January 8, 2001, Dan Wakefield, "Speak, Memory!," p. 35; October 23, 2006, John Powers, review of The Greatest Story Every Sold, pp. 31-39.

National Review, February 7, 1994, John O'Sullivan, "Sexual Exceptionalism," p. 10; July 17, 2006, Mark Steyn, "One Paper's Killer Reviews," p. 52.

New Criterion, January 1, 2007, James Bowman, "Delusions of ‘Reality,’" pp. 64-69.

New Republic, February 1, 1988, Robert Brustein, review of The Theater Art of Boris Aronson, p. 27; March 16, 1992, Robert Brustein, "An Embarrassment of Riches," p. 27; May 11, 1992, Robert Brustein, "Opinions," p. 31; April 26, 1993, Stanley Kauffmann, "Akalaitis Axed," p. 29; February 28, 1994, Robert Wright, "Tonya's Theme," p. 46; March 3, 1997, "Killing Us Softly," p. 10; December 25, 2000, James Wolcott, "The Beltway Boy," p. 28.

Newsweek, December 21, 1987, Walter Clemons, "Boris Aronson's Theatre Art," p. 65.

New York, March 23, 1992, Edwin Diamond, "Two on the Aisle," p. 20; March 14, 1994, Mimi Kramer, "Finally Free of Frank?," p. 46; November 2, 1998, Walter Kirn, review of Hot Seat, p. 120.

New York Times, December 8, 1987, Brendan Gill, review of The Theater Art of Boris Aronson; February 13, 1994, Frank Rich, "Exit the Critic"; December 6, 1998, Harlow Robinson, review of Hot Seat; October 29, 2000, James Shapiro, review of Ghost Light, p. 6; October 30, 2000, Hilma Wolitzer, review of Ghost Light, p. E8.

New York Times Book Review, December 6, 1998, Harlow Robinson, "Two on the Aisle: Frank Rich Recalls His 13 Years as Chief Drama Critic for the New York Times," p. 44; September 17, 2006, Ian Buruma, "Theater of War," p. 1.

Progressive, January 1, 2007, Paul VanDeCarr, interview with Frank Rich, pp. 31-35.

Publishers Weekly, October 9, 1987, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of The Theater Art of Boris Aronson, p. 74; July 17, 2000, review of Ghost Light, p. 181; July 24, 2006, review of The Greatest Story Ever Sold, p. 49; October 2, 2006, review of The Greatest Story Ever Sold, p. 60.

Sports Illustrated, December 12, 1994, "Getting Rich," p. 18.

Tikkun, May-June, 1999, Jack Newfield, "An Interview with Frank Rich," p. 56.

Time, December 21, 1987, review of The Theater Art of Boris Aronson, p. 66; October 30, 2000, James Poniewozik, "Stages of Development: Ghost Light Sketches a Family in Trouble and a Portrait of the Theater Critic as a Young Fan," p. 86.

Variety, May 13, 1987, Richard Hummler, "Time-Newsweek Critics Defend Review-Interview Form," p. 127; November 15, 1989, Richard Hummler, "Ruffled Hare Airs Rich Bitch: Writer of El Foldo Rapture Lashes out at N.Y. Times' Powerful Legit Critic," p. 1; October 11, 1993, Jeremy Gerard, "Rich Ankles Aisle to Write ‘Op-Ed’ Style," p. 193; July 24, 2000, "Hart Felt," p. 28; December 18, 2000, Wendy Smith, review of Ghost Light, p. 37.

Wall Street Journal, December 11, 1989, Meg Cox, "Broadway Is Giving Its Leading Critic Some Nasty Reviews," p. A1; November 6, 1990, Meg Cox, "With Its Romance and Intrigue, It Could Make a First-Rate Farce," p. B1.


Frank Rich Home Page, (May 8, 2007).

New York Times, (October 23, 2003), "Columnist Biography: Frank Rich."

World Net Daily, (July 21, 2003), Bob Kohn, "Why Frank Rich Is So Fun."

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