a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Saturday, March 25, 2006

In Praise Of A Great Writer

PBS is running a documentary on playwright Eugene O'Neill this coming week, that is supposed to be great.

Not only does it cover O'Neill's life and works (in less than 2 hours), but it also delves deeply into his creative process.

Plus studs like Al Pacino do bits from his work.

The amazing thing about O'Neill, who died in 1953, was that he had already won 3 Pulitzers and a Nobel Prize (the only one ever awarded to an American playwright) before he dug deep into his own demons late in life (while battling health problems) and wrote the three plays he is most known for -- "The Iceman Cometh", "Long Day's Journey Into Night", and "A Moon For the Misbegotten".

O'Neill was born in a hotel room in Times Square, to a tyrannical actor father and a depressive, morphine-addicted mother, who later blamed O'Neill for her drug problems. O'Neill had such a bad drinking problem when he was 23, that he tried killing himself, before giving up the heavy boozing that was killing him and turning to playwriting.

He won Pulitzers for "Beyond the Horizon", "Anna Christie" and "Strange Interlude". But rather than rest on his laurels, he dug deep into the wreckage of his family, and into himself, for his late, great works.

O'Neill died at age 65, from a progressive neurological disease that left him unable to write for nearly his entire last decade.

I'm ashamed to admit that I'm largely unfamiliar with his plays. And I don't think I would have wanted his life. But kudos to him for wrestling it into something that managed to move a lot of people.

This week, on PBS. Seek it out.


At 1:58 PM, Blogger William said...

Sounds interesting. Thanks for the heads up.

At 3:40 PM, Anonymous David said...

Isn't "Mourning Becomes Electra" popular? It's my favorite of his.


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