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Edna Ferber
Edna Ferber.jpg
circa 1904
Born August 15, 1885
Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA
Died April 16, 1968 (age 82)
New York City, New York, USA
Occupation Novelist, playwright
Nationality United States
Genres drama, romance

Edna Ferber (August 15, 1885 – April 16, 1968) was an American novelist, short story writer and playwright. Her novels were especially popular and included the Pulitzer Prize-winning So Big (1924), Show Boat (1926; made into the celebrated 1927 musical), Cimarron (1929; made into the 1931 film which won the Academy Award for Best Picture), and Giant (1952; made into the 1956 Hollywood movie).

Biography[edit]

Early years[edit]

Ferber was born August 15, 1885, in Kalamazoo, Michigan, to a Hungarian-born Jewish storekeeper, Jacob Charles Ferber, and his Milwaukee, Wisconsin-born wife, Julia (Neumann) Ferber. After living in Chicago, Illinois, and Ottumwa, Iowa, at the age of 12 Ferber and her family moved to Appleton, Wisconsin, where she graduated from high school and briefly attended Lawrence University. She took newspaper jobs at the Appleton Daily Crescent and the Milwaukee Journal before publishing her first novel. She covered the 1920 Republican National Convention and 1920 Democratic National Convention for the United Press Association.

Career[edit]

Ferber's novels generally featured strong female protagonists, along with a rich and diverse collection of supporting characters. She usually highlighted at least one strong secondary character who faced discrimination ethnically or for other reasons; through this technique, Ferber demonstrated her belief that people are people and that the not-so-pretty people have the best character.

Several theatrical and film productions have been based on her works, including Show Boat, Giant, Ice Palace, Saratoga Trunk, Cimarron (which won an Oscar) and the 1960 remake. Three of these works – Show Boat, Saratoga Trunk and Giant – have been developed into musicals.

When composer Jerome Kern proposed turning the very serious Show Boat into a musical, Ferber was shocked, thinking it would be transformed into a typical light entertainment of the 1920s. It was not until Kern explained that he and Oscar Hammerstein II wanted to create a different type of musical that Ferber granted him the rights. Saratoga, based on Saratoga Trunk, was written at a much later date, after serious plots had become acceptable in stage musicals.

In 1925, she won the Pulitzer Prize for her book So Big, which was made into a silent film starring Colleen Moore that same year. An early talkie movie remake followed, in 1932, starring Barbara Stanwyck and George Brent, with Bette Davis in a supporting role. A 1953 remake of So Big starred Jane Wyman in the Stanwyck role, and is the version most often seen today.

Ferber was a member of the Algonquin Round Table, a group of wits who met for lunch every day at the Algonquin Hotel in New York. Ferber and another member of the Round Table, Alexander Woollcott, were long-time enemies, their antipathy lasting until Woollcott's death in 1943, although Howard Teichmann states in his biography of Woollcott that their feud was due to a misunderstanding. According to Teichmann, Ferber once described Woollcott as "a New Jersey Nero who has mistaken his pinafore for a toga."

Ferber collaborated with Round Table member George S. Kaufman on several plays presented on Broadway, most notably The Royal Family (1927), Dinner At Eight (1932) and Stage Door (1936).

Plaque located in Manhattan, at 65th Street & Central Park West, in the building in which Edna Ferber lived for 6 years

Personal life[edit]

Ferber never married, had no children, and is not known to have engaged in a romance or sexual relationship.[1] In her early novel Dawn O'Hara, the title character's aunt is said to have remarked, "Being an old maid was a great deal like death by drowning – a really delightful sensation when you ceased struggling." Ferber did take a maternal interest in the career of her niece Janet Fox, an actress who performed in the original Broadway casts of Ferber's plays Dinner at Eight and Stage Door.

Ferber died at her home in New York City, of stomach cancer,[2] at the age of 82.

Legacy[edit]

Ferber was portrayed by the actress Lili Taylor in the 1994 film Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle.[3]

In 2008, The Library of America selected Ferber's article "Miss Ferber Views 'Vultures' at Trial" for inclusion in its two-century retrospective of American True Crime.

On July 29, 2002, in her hometown of Appleton, Wisconsin, the U.S. Postal Service issued an 83¢ Distinguished Americans series postage stamp honoring her. Artist Mark Summers, well known for his scratchboard technique, created this portrait for the stamp referencing a black-and-white photograph of Ferber taken in 1927.[4]

Works[edit]

Musicals adapted from Ferber novels:

References[edit]

Footnotes
  1. ^ Ferber has been rumored to be a lesbian in several undocumented sources. Professor John Unsworth makes an unsupported claim in John Sutherland (2007) Bestsellers: A Very Short Introduction Oxford University Press: 53. Haggerty and Zimmerman imply she was gay because of her visits to Provincetown in the early 20th century (Haggerty and Zimmerman (2000), Lesbian Histories and Cultures: An Encyclopedia, Taylor and Francis, p. 610). Porter (Porter, Darwin (2004) Katherine the Great, Blood Moon Productions, Ltd, p. 204) comments in passing that Ferber was a lesbian, but offers no support. Burrough (Burrough, Brian (2010) The Big Rich: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Texas Oil Fortunes, Penguin) also remarks in passing that Ferber was gay, citing the biography written by Julie Goldsmith Gilbert (Ferber's great niece, see bibliography). Gilbert, however, makes no mention of lesbian relationships.
  2. ^ Great American Writers: Twentieth Century
  3. ^ Internet Movie Database entry for Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle
  4. ^ The Postal Store (2008). "Distinguished Americans Series: Edna Ferber". United States Postal Service. Archived from the original on 2008-05-07. Retrieved 2008-08-09. 
Bibliography
  • Ferber, Edna (1960). A Peculiar Treasure. New York: Doubleday. 
  • Gilbert, Julie Goldsmith (2000). Edna Ferber and Her Circle, A Biography. New York: Hal Leonard Corporation. 

External links[edit]


Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edna_Ferber — Please support Wikipedia.
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38 news items

 
Daily Beast
Fri, 28 Mar 2014 19:23:02 -0700

Miss Edna Ferber, the novelist, who lives in Central Park West, may not vote this year, because of something that happened when she registered prior to the last election. The clerk was taking down the facts about her: name, address, age, and so on ...
 
NorthJersey.com
Thu, 17 Apr 2014 22:37:30 -0700

... 2-hour-45-minute production, which has an epically clumsy, revolving, three-story set, is crammed with such peripheral figures as Hart's parents' neighbors, Kaufman's wife and walk-by famous people, including Harpo Marx, Dorothy Parker and Edna ...

Washington Post

Huffington Post
Thu, 17 Apr 2014 20:47:35 -0700

The anecdote usually goes that Kaufman make the remark directly to Berlin. In another party exchange, Hughes says to Edna Ferber, "You almost look like a man," and she replies, "So do you." The standard account has it that the two engaged in that ...
 
Vulture
Thu, 17 Apr 2014 19:03:45 -0700

(So what's with the dully staged party at the Kaufmans', with Edna Ferber, Harpo Marx, and other period glitterati just standing in a clump?) A bigger problem is that these precepts, when applied to Once in a Lifetime, don't seem to make any difference ...
 
Broadway World
Tue, 15 Apr 2014 09:37:40 -0700

The story: Based on Edna Ferber's novel of the same name, Show Boat covers a span of 40 years, and how those years affected Captain Andy Hawk's family and their showboat troop of actors who perform on the Cotton Blossom floating theater. Interwoven ...
 
DVD Talk
Thu, 10 Apr 2014 05:39:26 -0700

Forget Gone With the Wind (1939). Universal's 1936 version of the landmark Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein II musical, directed by James Whale and adapted from Edna Ferber's novel, is the superior epic of the Old South. It's a far richer, more ...
 
Arkansas Online (subscription)
Wed, 09 Apr 2014 21:52:30 -0700

Based on Edna Ferber's bestselling novel of the same name, the musical follows the lives of the performers, stagehands and dock workers on the Cotton Blossom, a Mississippi River showboat. The play's themes include racial prejudice and enduring love.

Anchorage Daily News

Anchorage Daily News
Thu, 20 Mar 2014 21:02:28 -0700

Edna Ferber writing later in her 1958 statehood novel, "Ice Palace," observed that World War II had brought Alaska into the modern world, once and for all. Statehood advocates anticipated an economic boom with the creation of Alaska as a state ...
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