George Abbott

For other people named George Abbott, see George Abbott (disambiguation).
George Abbott
Born George Francis Abbott
(1887-06-25)June 25, 1887
Forestville, New York, United States
Died January 31, 1995(1995-01-31) (aged 107)
Miami Beach, Florida, United States
Occupation Playwright, producer, director, screenwriter
Nationality American
Spouse Edna Levis
(m. 1914–1930; her death)
Mary Sinclair
(m. 1946–1951; divorced)
Joy Valderrama
(m. 1983–1995; his death)
Period 1915–1995
Debut works The Fall Guy (1925)
Love 'Em and Leave 'Em (1926)
Magnum opus Damn Yankees (1955)
Fiorello! (1959)
Works with Sheldon Harnick
Richard Rodgers
Jerome Weidman
Awards Drama Desk Award Outstanding Director (1983)
Pulitzer Prize for Drama (1960)
Tony Award Best Direction (1960, 1963)
Tony Award Best Musical (1955, 1956, 1960)
Special Tony Award (1987)

George Francis Abbott (June 25, 1887 – January 31, 1995) was an American theater producer and director, playwright, screenwriter, and film director and producer whose career spanned eight decades.[1]

Early years

Abbott was born in Forestville, New York to George Burwell Abbott (May 1858 Erie County, New York – February 4, 1942 Hamburg, New York) and Hannah May McLaury (1869 – June 20, 1940 Hamburg, New York). He later moved to the town of Salamanca, which twice elected his father mayor. In 1898, his family moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming, where he attended Kearney Military Academy. Within a few years, his family returned to New York, and he graduated from Hamburg High School in 1907. Four years later, he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Rochester,[1] where he wrote his first play, Perfectly Harmless, for the University Dramatic Club.

Abbott then went to Harvard University, to take a course in playwriting from George Pierce Baker. Under Baker's tutelage, he wrote The Head of the Family, which was performed at the Harvard Dramatic Club in 1912.[2] He then worked for a year as assistant stage manager at the Bijou Theatre in Boston, where his play The Man in the Manhole won a contest.


Abbott started acting on Broadway in 1913, debuting in The Misleading Lady.[1] While acting in several plays in New York City, he began to write; his first successful play was The Fall Guy (1925).[1] Abbott acquired a reputation as an astute "show doctor". He frequently was called upon to supervise changes when a show was having difficulties in tryouts or previews prior to its Broadway opening. His first great hit was Broadway, written and directed in partnership with Philip Dunning, whose play Abbott "rejiggered".[3] It opened on September 16, 1926, at the Broadhurst Theatre and ran for 603 performances. Other successes followed, and it was a rare year that did not have an Abbott production on Broadway.

He also worked in Hollywood as a writer and director while continuing with his theater work.

Among those who crossed paths with Abbott early in their careers are Desi Arnaz, Gene Tierney, Betty Comden, Hal Prince, Adolph Green, Leonard Bernstein, Jule Styne, Bob Fosse, Stephen Sondheim, Elaine Stritch, John Kander, Fred Ebb, Carol Burnett and Liza Minnelli.


In 1963, he published his autobiography, Mister Abbott.[1]

Personal life

Abbott was married to Edna Lewis from 1914 to her death in 1930; they had one child. Actress Mary Sinclair was his second wife. Their marriage lasted from 1946 until their 1951 divorce.[4] He had a long romance with actress Maureen Stapleton from 1968 to 1978. She was 43 and he was 81 when they began their affair, then ten years later Abbott left her for a younger woman.[5] His third wife was Joy Valderrama. They were married from 1983 until his death in 1995.[4]

Abbott was a vigorous man who remained active past his 100th birthday by golfing and dancing. He died of a stroke on January 31, 1995, in Miami Beach, Florida, at age 107. The New York Times obituary read, "Mrs. Abbott said that a week and a half before his death he was dictating revisions to the second act of Pajama Game with a revival in mind, in addition to working on a revival of Damn Yankees. At the age of 106, he walked down the aisle on opening night of the Damn Yankees revival and received a standing ovation. He was heard saying to his companion, "There must be somebody important here."[6]

In addition to his wife, George Abbott was survived by a sister, Isabel Juergens, who died a year later at the age of 102; two granddaughters, Amy Clark Davidson and Susan Clark Hansley; a grandson, George Clark, and six great-grandchildren.1


In 1965, the 54th Street Theatre was rechristened the George Abbott Theater in his honor. The building was demolished in 1970. New York City's George Abbott Way, the section of West 45th Street northwest of Times Square, is also named after him.

He received New York City's Handel Medallion in 1976, honorary doctorates from the Universities of Rochester and Miami, and the Kennedy Center Lifetime Achievement Award in 1982.[6] He was also inducted into the Western New York Entertainment Hall of Fame[7] and the American Theatre Hall of Fame. In 1990, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts.[8]




Year Title Credit
1918 The Imposter Writer, actor (Lem)
1926 Love 'Em and Leave 'Em Writer
1927 Hills of Peril Playwright, A Holy Terror
1928 Four Walls Playwright, writer
1929 Coquette Playwright
1929 The Carnival Man Director
1929 Broadway Playwright, writer
1929 The Bishop's Candlesticks Director
1929 Why Bring That Up? Director, writer
1929 The Saturday Night Kid Playwright, Love 'Em and Leave 'Em
1929 Night Parade Playwright, Ringside
1929 Half Way to Heaven Director, writer
1930 El Dios del mar Writer
1930 All Quiet on the Western Front Writer
1930 The Fall Guy Playwright
1930 Manslaughter Director, writer
1930 The Sea God Director, writer
1931 The Leap into the Void Writer
1931 Stolen Heaven Director; writer
1931 The IncorrigiblePlaywright, Manslaughter
1931 Sombras del circo Playwright, Halfway to Heaven
1931 À mi-chemin du ciel Playwright, Halfway to Heaven
1931 Secrets of a Secretary Director, writer
1931 My Sin Director; writer
1931 The Cheat Director
1932 Halvvägs till himlen Writer
1932 Those We Love Playwright
1933 Lilly Turner Playwright
1934 Heat Lightning Playwright
1934 Straight Is the Way Playwright, Four Walls
1936 Three Men on a Horse Playwright
1938 Broadway Writer
1939 On Your Toes Playwright
1940 Too Many Girls Director
1940 The Boys from Syracuse Playwright, director
1941 Highway West Playwright, Heat Lightning
1942 Broadway Playwright
1947 Beat the Band Playwright
1957 The Pajama Game Writer, director, producer[1]
1958 Damn Yankees Writer, director, producer

Awards and nominations

  • 1955 Tony Award for Best Musical – The Pajama Game
  • 1956 Tony Award for Best Musical – Damn Yankees
  • 1960 Pulitzer Prize for DramaFiorello!
  • 1960 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical – Fiorello!
  • 1960 Tony Award for Best Musical – Fiorello!
  • 1963 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical – A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
  • 1976 Special Tony Award: The Lawrence Langer award
  • 1982 Kennedy Center Honors
  • 1983 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Musical – On Your Toes
  • 1987 Special Tony Award on the occasion of his 100th birthday
  • 1930 Academy Award for Best Achievement in Writing – All Quiet on the Western Front[2]
  • 1958 Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written American Musical – Damn Yankees
  • 1958 Tony Award for Best Musical – New Girl in Town
  • 1958 Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written American Musical – The Pajama Game
  • 1959 Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures – Damn Yankees
  • 1963 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play – Never Too Late
  • 1968 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical – How Now, Dow Jones

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Abbott, George". Encyclopedia Britannica. I: A– Ak–Bayes (15th ed.). Chicago, IL: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. 2010. p. 13. ISBN 978-1-59339-837-8.
  2. 1 2 Lucy E. Cross. "George Abbott". Masterworks Broadway. Retrieved October 20, 2013.
  3. Staff (February 13, 1995). "Theater: Director/Writer George Abbott, 18871995". Newsweek. Retrieved August 28, 2013.
  4. 1 2 Arias, Ron (July 6, 1987). Marking His First Century, George Abbott Once Again Brings Broadway to Broadway". People. Vol. 28, No. 1. Retrieved August 28, 2013.
  5. Database (undated). "Maureen Stapleton". Notable Names Database.
  6. 1 2 Berger, Marilyn (February 2, 1995). "George Abbott, Broadway Giant with Hit after Hit, Is Dead at 107". The New York Times. Retrieved August 28, 2013.
  7. "The Western New York Entertainment Hall of Fame". Retrieved February 20, 2012.
  8. "National Medal of Arts". National Endowment for the Arts. Retrieved October 20, 2013..
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