George Jean Nathan

George Jean Nathan

George Jean Nathan (February 14 1882 – April 8 1958) was an American drama critic and editor.

Early life

Nathan was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He graduated from Cornell University in 1904, where he was a member of the Quill and Dagger society.

Drama critic career

Noted for the erudition and cynicism of his reviews, Nathan was an early champion of Eugene O'Neill. Together with H.L. Mencken, he co-edited the magazine "The Smart Set" from 1914 and co-founded "The American Mercury" in 1924. He was also a founder and an editor (1932–35) of the "American Spectator", and after 1943 he wrote a syndicated column for the "New York Journal-American".

Over the years, Nathan's criticisms were published in "Mr. George Jean Nathan Presents" (1917), "The Critic and the Drama" (1922), "The Testament of a Critic" (1931), "Since Ibsen" (1933), "Passing Judgments" (1935), "The World of George Jean Nathan" (1952), and "The Magic Mirror" (1960). Nathan's philosophy of criticism is laid out in "Autobiography of an Attitude" (1925).

Relationships and marriage

Though he published a paean to "The Bachelor Life" in 1941, Nathan had a reputation as a "ladies man" -- and one not averse to dating within his field; indeed the character of Addison De Witt, the waspish theater critic who squires a starlet (played by a then-unknown Marilyn Monroe) in the film "All About Eve", was based on Nathan. His most famous relationship was reportedly with actress Lillian Gish. Their relationship began in the late 1920s and lasted almost a decade, with Gish repeatedly refusing his marriage proposals. Fact|date=October 2007

Nathan eventually married considerably younger stage actress Julie Haydon in 1955.


Nathan died in New York City in 1958, aged 76.


The George Jean Nathan Award, an honor in dramatic criticism, is named after him.


:"One does not go to the theater to see life and nature; one goes to see the particular way in which life and nature happen to look to a cultivated, imaginative and entertaining man who happens, in turn, to be a playwright." –George Jean Nathan [cite book|last=Lumley|first=Frederick|title=New Trends in 20th Century Drama: A Survey Since Ibsen and Shaw|publisher=Barrie and Jenkins|date=1972|location=London|pages=p. 12|isbn=978-0195196801]


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