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Bloomgarden, Kermit

BLOOMGARDEN, KERMIT

BLOOMGARDEN, KERMIT (1904–1976), U.S. theatrical producer. Born in Brooklyn to Zemad and Annie Groden Bloomgarden, he graduated from New York University in 1926 as an accounting major and practiced as a certified public accountant for six years, when he met a Broadway producer at a dinner party who convinced him that "the theater was for me," Bloomgarden recalled. In 1935 Bloomgarden began a ten-year association with Herman Shumlin's production organization, and he was associated with the presentation of several successful plays by Lillian *Hellman, including The Children's Hour, The Little Foxes, and Watch on the Rhine. Later he produced other Hellman plays on his own. His first venture as a producer was Heavenly Express, starring John *Garfield, which gave him experience but no profits before it closed quickly in 1940. Following World War ii, Bloomgarden produced Deep Are the Roots, a powerful drama about racial conflict, and Hellman's Another Part of the Forest. Perhaps the best-known play he produced in that period, in 1949, was Arthur *Miller's Death of a Salesman, with a cast headed by Lee J. *Cobb. It is considered one of the greatest American plays of the 20th century, and it won the Tony and New York Drama Critics Circle awards as well as the Pulitzer Prize.

He had failures as well as hits. But between September 1955 and the following May, Bloomgarden, alone or in association with others, presented four major productions: Hellman's adaptation of Jean Anouilh's The Lark, the musical The Most Happy Fella, Miller's A View From the Bridge, and The Diary of Anne Frank, based on a diary kept by a doomed Jewish girl in World War ii. Directed by Garson *Kanin, it ran for 717 performances, made a star out of Susan *Strasberg, and won the three major drama prizes of 1956: the Pulitzer, the Tony for best play, and the New York Drama Critics Circle award. The play, written by the husband and wife team of Albert *Hackett and Frances Goodrich went through eight drafts over several years before emerging on the stage. The playwrights visited Amsterdam to see the secret hideaway and conferred with Otto Frank, Anne's father. The work was based on Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, the best-selling book about the Dutch girl's wartime experience hiding from the Nazis. The play contains the pivotal line from the diary: "In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart."

In 1957 Bloomgarden produced Look Homeward, Angel, based on the novel by Thomas Wolfe, as well as Meredith Willson's Music Man, which won eight Tony awards and ran for 1,375 performances. Over the years his name preceded the credits of Hellman's Toys in the Attic, Miller's The Crucible, Stephen *Sondheim's Anyone Can Whistle, and Lanford Wilson's The Hot L Baltimore. He produced more than 30 plays on Broadway, including seven by Hellman and three by Miller. In 1974, after the amputation of his right leg because of arteriosclerosis, he returned to Broadway with Peter Shaffer's Equus.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]

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