O'Neill, Eugene Gladstone

(1888-1953)
   "Born in a hotel room—and God damn it—died in a hotel room!" were reportedly among the Nobel Prize-winning playwright's last words. The son of the renowned actor James O'Neill and Ella Quinlan O'Neill was born in a hotel near today's Times Square in New York, died in a Boston hotel, and spent part of his childhood in hotels on the road with his father. Two sons preceded Eugene: James Jr. and Edmund. The latter's death in infancy haunted Eugene with the guilty feeling that he had usurped the boy's place in the family, and those guilt feelings were compounded when he learned as a teen that his difficult birth had initiated his mother's addiction to morphine. Those concerns surface notably in his autobiographical posthumous play Long Day's Journey into Night. * Indeed, most of his plays were strongly autobiographical.
   O'Neill was educated at various Catholic boarding schools, but spent summers with the family at their Monte Cristo Cottage in New London, Connecticut. He tended to be a loner who read voraciously, from popular romantic novels to the works of such modernist icons as Henrik Ibsen and George Bernard Shaw. One academic year at Princeton University, 1906-1907, was followed by various jobs and ventures into dissipation in unsavory districts of New York City. His unfortunate first marriage, to Kathleen Jenkins in 1909, impelled him to escape by joining a mining expedition to Honduras, where he caught malaria. His son Eugene O'Neill Jr. was born in May 1910, but O'Neill was already preparing to embark on his next sea voyage, which took him to Buenos Aires for the winter of 1910-1911 and inspired his early plays of seafaring men. Returning to New York in 1911, he was divorced and moved into a waterfront dive called Jimmy-the-Priest's, from which he later conceptualized the setting of Anna Christie (1922). It was there, in 1912, that he attempted suicide.
   Despite his chronic drinking, O'Neill managed to hold a summer job as a reporter for the New London Telegraph in 1912 while writing poetry on the side. Diagnosed with tuberculosis, he convalesced at Gaylord Farm Sanitarium. Reading the plays of August Strindberg during those months was a formative experience for him, and he wrote his own first one-act play, A Wife for a Life, in 1913. A steady flow of one-acts from his pen confirmed his discovery of a vocation. He enrolled in George Pierce Baker's playwriting class at Harvard University in 1914. He began to socialize with Greenwich Village intellectuals and bohemians in 1915, but it was the summer of 1916 that marked his real beginning as a produced playwright. A group of friends spending the summer in Provincetown, Massachusetts, began performing plays in a fish-house on a wharf, and that was the venue for O'Neill's first produced play, Bound East for Cardiff, on 28 July. The group's endeavors continued in New York as the Prov-incetown Players, and O'Neill's one-acts continued to be produced, with the playwright himself performing in some of them. The one-acts produced during this period include Before Breakfast (1916), In the Zone (1917), The Long Voyage Home (1917), and The Moon of the Caribbees (1918). Some of his one-acts of the sea were later collected under the umbrella title S. S. Glencairn.
   In 1918, O'Neill married Agnes Boulton, with whom he had two children: Shane (1919-1977) and Oona (1925-1991). Oona broke with her father over her marriage to Charlie Chaplin in 1943. O'Neill and Boulton spent the theatre seasons in New York and summers in a remodeled coast guard station at Peaked Hill Bars near Provincetown. Despite friction in his marriage, the 1920s were one of O'Neill's most productive decades and truly established him as the long-awaited "great American playwright." Three of his four Pulitzer Prizes were awarded during the modernist era: Beyond the Horizon (1920), Anna Christie (1922), and Strange Interlude (1928). He experimented with expressionist techniques in The Emperor Jones (1920), The Hairy Ape (1921), The Great God Brown (1925), and Dynamo (1928). He explored racial issues in All God's Chillun Got Wings (1923). He wrote searing psychological dramas, Desire Under the Elms (1924) and Strange Interlude (1927), and a historical costume drama that also served as an indictment of capitalism, Marco Millions (1925).
   O'Neill's achievements before 1930 were remarkable and would already have assured him his preeminent stature in American drama. The end of this phase of his life coincided with his liaison with Carlotta Monterey and 1929 divorce from Agnes Boulton. The 1930s and 1940s would bring fewer but even more important plays.

The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. .

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  • O'Neill,Eugene Gladstone — O Neill (ō nēlʹ), Eugene Gladstone. 1888 1953. American playwright. Among his works are Mourning Becomes Electra (1931) and Long Day s Journey into Night (produced 1956), for which he was awarded his fourth Pulitzer Prize. He won the 1936 Nobel… …   Universalium

  • O'Neill, Eugene (Gladstone) — (16 oct. 1888, Nueva York, N.Y., EE.UU.–27 nov. 1953, Boston, Mass.). Dramaturgo estadounidense. Hijo de un actor itinerante, vivió una juventud de abandono, en la que abusó del alcohol, además de ejercer como marino errante. Comenzó a escribir… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • O'Neill, Eugene (Gladstone) — born Oct. 16, 1888, New York, N.Y., U.S. died Nov. 27, 1953, Boston, Mass. U.S. playwright. The son of a touring actor, he spent an itinerant youth as a seaman, heavy drinker, and derelict, then began writing plays while recovering from… …   Universalium

  • Eugene Gladstone O'Neill — Eugene O Neill Pour les articles homonymes, voir O Neill. Eugene O Neill …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Eugene Gladstone O'Neill — noun United States playwright (1888 1953) • Syn: ↑O Neill, ↑Eugene O Neill • Instance Hypernyms: ↑dramatist, ↑playwright …   Useful english dictionary

  • O'Neill, Eugene — ▪ American dramatist Introduction in full  Eugene Gladstone O Neill  born Oct. 16, 1888, New York, N.Y., U.S. died Nov. 27, 1953, Boston, Mass.       foremost American dramatist and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1936. His… …   Universalium

  • Eugene O'Neill — Eugene O’Neill, fotografiert von Carl van Vechten am 5. September 1933 Eugene Gladstone O’Neill (* 16. Oktober 1888 in New York City; † 27. November 1953 in Boston) war ein US amerikanischer Dramatiker und Literaturnobelpreis …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Eugene O'Neill — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Eugene O Neill Eugene O Neil por Carl van Vechten …   Wikipedia Español

  • Eugene O'Neill — For other uses, see Eugene O Neill (disambiguation). Eugene O Neill Portrait of O Neill by Alice Boughton Born Eugene Gladstone O Neill October 16, 1888(1888 10 16) New York City, US …   Wikipedia

  • Eugene O'Neill — noun United States playwright (1888 1953) • Syn: ↑O Neill, ↑Eugene Gladstone O Neill • Instance Hypernyms: ↑dramatist, ↑playwright * * * Eugene O’Neill [Eugene ONeill …   Useful english dictionary

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