Clifford Odets

Clifford Odets (ōdĕts´), 1906–63, American dramatist, b. Philadelphia. After graduating from high school he became an actor and in 1931 joined the Group Theatre. Turning his attention from acting to playwriting, Odets soon came to be regarded as the most gifted of the American naturalistic social-protest dramatists of the 1930s. His first work for the Group, Waiting for Lefty (1935), a vernacular, Marxian drama of the awakening and insurgency of the impoverished working classes, aroused immediate international attention. Awake and Sing (1935), his first full-length play and widely considered his best work, compassionately portrays the struggles and rebellion of a financially destitute Jewish-American family. Other plays include Till the Day I Die (1935), Paradise Lost (1935), Golden Boy (1937), Night Music (1939), and Clash by Night (1942). Odets spent many years in Hollywood writing film scripts, e.g., Sweet Smell of Success (1957). In his later plays he turned from social drama to self-conscious dramas of the individual, such as The Big Knife (1949), The Country Girl (1950), and The Flowering Peach (1954).

See The Time is Ripe: The 1940 Journal of Clifford Odets (1988); biographies by E. Murray (1968), G. C. Weales (1971), G. Miller (1989), and M. Brenman-Gibson (2002); studies by M. J. Mendelsohn (1969), H. Cantor (1978, repr. 2000), G. Miller, ed. (1991), and C. J. Herr (2003).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Six Plays of Clifford Odets
Clifford Odets.
Modern Library, 1939
Librarian’s tip: Includes: Waiting for Lefty; Awake and Sing!; Till the Day I Die; Paradise Lost; Golden Boy; Rocket to the Moon
Clifford Odets
Hornby, Richard.
The Hudson Review, Vol. 59, No. 3, Autumn 2006
Days with the Group Theatre: An Interview with Clifford Odets
Hethmon, Robert H.
Michigan Quarterly Review, Vol. 41, No. 2, Spring 2002
The Big Knife
Clifford Odets.
Random House, 1949
Night Music: A Comedy in Twelve Scenes
Clifford Odets.
Random House, 1940
Realism and the American Dramatic Tradition
William W. Demastes.
University of Alabama Press, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Eight "'Odets, Where Is Thy Sting?' Reassessing the 'Playwright of the Proletariat'"
Stage Left: The Development of the American Social Drama in the Thirties
R. C. Reynolds.
Whitston, 1986
Librarian’s tip: "Clifford Odets: Middle Class Naturalism" begins on p. 87
Dramatic Encounters: The Jewish Presence in Twentieth-Century American Drama, Poetry, and Humor and the Black-Jewish Literary Relationship
Louis Harap.
Greenwood Press, 1987
Librarian’s tip: "Clifford Odets" begins on p. 100
Freud on Broadway: A History of Psychoanalysis and the American Drama
W. David Sievers.
Hermitage House, 1955
Librarian’s tip: "Clifford Odets" begins on p. 261
Contemporary American Playwrights
Burns Mantle.
Dodd, Mead, 1938
Librarian’s tip: "Clifford Odets" begins on p. 115
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