|Florida Artists: George Abbott|
Francis Abbott was an American theater producer and director,
playwright, screenwriter, and film director and producer whose career
spanned more than seven decades. A longtime Miami Beach resident, George
Abbott directed 27 musicals, including 22 that were hits, while winning
seven Tony Awards.
In 1959, Abbot won a Pulitzer for co-writing the book for the musical
The legendary Broadway director’s résumé includes the musicals
Damn Yankees and
The Pajama Game, and he also was
awarded the National Medal of Arts.
George Francis Abbott was born on June 25, 1887, in Forestville, NY, and moved shortly after to Salamanca, NY, where his grandparents set up his father in a wholesale tailoring business. Abbott attended Hamburg High School in New York and later went on to the University of Rochester. Although he considered journalism for two years, Abbott soon turned his attention to playwriting. Abbott wrote his first play, a comedy-farce entitled "Perfectly Harmless," while studying at the University of Rochester in 1910. Three years later he made his Broadway debut playing a drunken college boy in "The Misleading Lady."
George Abbott continued to appear in productions such as "Lightnin'," "Hell-Bent for Heaven," and "Holy Terror" until 1925. In the same year he launched his writing career with "The Fall Guy," and in 1926, with "Love 'Em and Leave 'Em," he began to direct. Shortly after that, he became a producer for the first time with "Bless You Sister." Abbott subsequently served in some capacity in well over 100 Broadway productions, including a good many musicals. In the '30s and '40s there were shows such as "Jumbo" (1935), "On Your Toes" (1936), "The Boys from Syracuse" (1938), "Too Many Girls" (1939), "Pal Joey" (1940), "Best Foot Forward" (1941), "Beat the Band," "On the Town" (1944), "Billion Dollar Baby," "Barefoot Boy with Cheek," "High Button Shoes" (1947), "Look Ma, I'm Dancin'," "Where's Charley?" (1948) and "Touch and Go" (1949).
Although he produced the smash hit "Call Me Madam" (1950), "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" (1951), and a revival of "On Your Toes" in the early '50s, for the rest of the decade, and throughout the remainder of his career, Abbott gave up producing musicals in favor of directing, and writing librettos. Although it was a time when the number of new musicals on Broadway was beginning to decline, Abbott was involved with some of the most memorable -- and one or two he would probably like to forget!
Abbott received Tony Awards for his writing contributions to The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees in 1955 and 1956, respectively, and for his writing and directing of Fiorello!, in 1959. He also won the Pulitzer Prize for drama for Fiorello! and a Tony for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Abbott continued working well into his 90s. The same year he received the Kennedy Center Honor, he also collaborated with George Balanchine on a revival of On Your Toes, which opened at the Kennedy Center on December 14, 1982. Over the years, Abbott's contribution to the Broadway musical was immense.
George Abbott introduced the fast-paced, tightly integrated style that influenced so many actors, dancers, singers, and particularly fellow directors such as Jerome Robbins and Bob Fosse. Another disciple was Hal Prince, arguably the leading director of musicals during the '80s. At the age of 106, George Abbott advised director Jack O'Brien on revisions of his original book for the 1994 Broadway revival of "Damn Yankees," and in the same year, BBC Television devoted a fascinating Omnibus program to his work. When he died early in 1995, all the lights on Broadway were dimmed in tribute to one of the district's legendary and much-loved figures.
Producer, Director, Playwright
George Francis Abbott was an American theater producer and director, playwright, screenwriter, and film director and producer whose career spanned more than seven decades. A longtime Miami Beach resident, George Abbott directed 27 musicals, including 22 that were hits, while winning seven Tony Awards. In 1959, Abbot won a Pulitzer for co-writing the book for the musical Fiorello! The legendary Broadway director’s résumé includes the musicals Damn Yankees and The Pajama Game, and he also was awarded the National Medal of Arts.
DOB: June 25, 1887 00:00:00.000