George Abbott (June 25, 1887 - January 31, 1995) was among the greatest of Broadway showmen. Abbott wrote, produced, and directed some of the most notable Broadway plays, including The Pajama Game, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Damn Yankees.

He was born George Francis Abbott in Forestville, New York: his father was mayor of Salamanca, New York for two terms. In 1898 he and his family moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming where Abbott attended Kearney Military Academy. The family returned to New York where Abbott graduated from Hamburg High School in 1907. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Rochester in 1911, and wrote the play Perfectly Harmless that was performed at the University Dramatic Club in 1911.

Abbott then went to Harvard University where he studied play writing under George Pierce Baker; under his tutelage he wrote the play The Head of the Family, which was performed at the Harvard Dramatic Club in 1912. He then won a play contest at the Bijou Theatre in Boston, Massachusetts, (for The Man in the Manhole). He worked there for a year as assistant stage manager.

Abbott first appeared as an actor on Broadway in The Misleading Lady in 1913. While acting in several plays in New York City, he began to write, with this first successful play being 1925's The Fall Guy. He moved on to work in Hollywood as a writer and director, while continuing with his theatre work. His most notable directorial efforts were Jumbo, On Your Toes, The Boys from Syracuse, Pal Joey (Rodgers and Hart shows), On the Town (with Comden and Green, Leonard Bernstein), High Button Shoes, Where's Charley?, Call Me Madam, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Wonderful Town, The Pajama Game (in which Bob Fosse got his break as a choreographer), Damn Yankees, Fiorello!, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (an early Stephen Sondheim musical), Flora the Red Menace (Kander and Ebb's first musical together, and Liza Minnelli's Broadway debut (at age 19).

In addition to his other activities, Abbott acquired a reputation as an astute (and ruthless) show doctor: when a show was having difficulties in tryouts or previews, he would be called in to supervise changes.

He married his first wife, Ednah Levis in 1914, and they had a daughter Judith, who became an actress and married actor Tom Ewell in 1946. Ednah died in 1930. Abbott married his second wife, Mary Sinclair in April 1946; they divorced in 1951. He married his third wife, Joy Valderrama on November 21, 1983.

In 1965 the 54th St. Theatre (previously the Adelphi Theatre) was named the George Abbott Theatre in his honor. The theatre was demolished in 1970.

He died of a stroke in Miami Beach, Florida at the age of 107. He stands as one of the most admired men in the history of Broadway.

Biography courtesy of www.filmbug.com
 


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