The Later Years

Kaufman's personal life was centered around his wife, Beatrice (nee Bakrow), whom he married in 1917. Although they soon went their separate ways romantically, the couple were devoted to each other personally and professionally, until her death in 1945. Their daughter, Anne, born in 1925, was a source of joy to them both and remains today the executor of his estate.

From the advent of World War II until the end of his career, Kaufman rarely reached the heights of the 1920s and 30s. He was a begrudging visitor to Hollywood, far preferring to let others adapt his work for the screen (fourteen of his plays made it to film) and only occasionally, as in the case of A Night at the Opera, writing original screenplays. (Hollywood was also the setting for his most personally embarrassing moment, when film actress Mary Astor's diary detailing their affair became public in 1936).

As a playwright, there were few triumphs in his final twenty years: The Late George Apley (1944), based on the novel by and adapted with John P. Marquand; The Solid Gold Cadillac (1953), a fable about the corporate world written with Howard Teichmann; and Silk Stockings (1955), a musical version of the film Ninotchka, written with his second wife, Leueen MacGrath, whom he married in 1949. He enjoyed a greater reputation as a director during this period, particularly with the comedy My Sister Eileen (1940) and the smash musical Guys And Dolls (1950), and as a witty raconteur on television shows such as This is Show Business.

But these were definitely lesser triumphs, certainly as compared to those of the thirties. Although still lionized as a grandmaster of the Broadway scene when he died in 1961 in New York City, Kaufman had little interest or hope that his plays would be treated well by posterity. He would have been surprised by the enormous number of first-rate revivals of his work on Broadway and in the regional theaters that began in the late 1960s and continues until today.