Open main menu

Brendan Gill (October 4, 1914 – December 27, 1997) wrote for The New Yorker for more than 60 years. He also contributed film criticism for Film Comment and wrote a popular book about his time at the New Yorker magazine.


Born in Hartford, Connecticut, Gill attended the Kingswood-Oxford School before graduating in 1936 from Yale University, where he was a member of Skull and Bones, along with John Hersey.[1]:127 He was a long-time resident of Bronxville, New York, and Norfolk, Connecticut.

In 1936 The New Yorker editor St. Clair McKelway hired Gill as a writer.[2] One of the publication's few writers to serve under its first four editors, he wrote more than 1,200 pieces for the magazine. These included Profiles, Talk of the Town features, and scores of reviews of Broadway and Off-Broadway theater productions.[3]

Gill shocked literary circles in 1949 with his brutally devastating review of the novel "A Rage to Live," by John O'Hara.[4] "During the preceding two decades O'Hara had been The New Yorker's most prolific contributor of stories"[5] (no fewer than 197 by one count).[6] Gill disparaged his colleague's book as "a formula family novel" turned out by "writers of the third and fourth magnitude in such disheartening abundance" and declared it "a catastrophe" by an author who "plainly intended to write nothing less than a great American novel." More recent critics have called Gill's review a "savage attack" and a "cruel hatchet job."[7] Thereafter, O'Hara quit writing stories for the magazine for more than a decade, and when readers complained to Gill for driving O'Hara away, Gill deflected blame onto another New Yorker contributor, James Thurber, for stirring up animosity. At a forum on O'Hara's legacy held in 1996, Gill stood up in the crowd to recall his attack on O'Hara nearly 50 years before, rationalizing it by pleading, "I had to tell the truth about the novel."[8]

As The New Yorker's main architecture critic from 1987 to 1996, Gill was a successor to Lewis Mumford as the author of the long-running "Skyline" column before Paul Goldberger took his place. A champion of architectural preservation and other visual arts, Gill joined Jacqueline Kennedy's coalition to preserve and restore New York's Grand Central Terminal. He also chaired the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and authored 15 books, including Here at The New Yorker and the iconoclastic Frank Lloyd Wright biography Many Masks.


Brendan Gill died of natural causes in 1997, at the age of 83. In a New Yorker "Postscript" following Gill's death, John Updike described him as “avidly alert to the power of art in general.”[3]


Gill's son, Michael Gates Gill, is the author of How Starbucks Saved My Life: A Son of Privilege Learns to Live Like Everyone Else.[9] His youngest son, Charles Gill, is the author of the novel The Boozer Challenge.

Offices heldEdit



  • The Day the Money Stopped (1957)
  • The Trouble of One House (1951)
  • Fair Land to Build in: The Architecture of the Empire State (1984)
  • The Dream Come True: Great Houses of Los Angeles (1980)
  • Lindbergh Alone - May 21, 1927 (1980)
  • Summer Places (with Dudley Whitney Hill) (1978)
  • Ways of Loving (short stories) (1974).
  • Tallulah (Tallulah Bankhead biography) (1972)
  • Cole Porter (Cole Porter biography) (1972)
  • New York Life: Of Friends and Others
  • The introduction to Portable Dorothy Parker (Dorothy Parker collection of her stories & columns) (1972)
  • Late Bloomers
  • Here at The New Yorker (1975)
  • Biographical essay as introduction to “States of Grace: Eight Plays by Philip Barry” (1975)
  • Many Masks: A Life of Frank Lloyd Wright (1987)


  • Gill, Brendan (15 January 1949). "The Talk of the Town: Runaway". The New Yorker. 24 (47): 22–23. I Can Hear it Now - album of speeches and news broadcasts, 1932-45 (with Spencer Klaw).
  • Gill, Brendan (4 February 1950). "The Talk of the Town: The Wildest People". The New Yorker. 25 (50): 21–22. Transit Radio, Inc.
  • Gill, Brendan (4 February 1950). "The Talk of the Town: Improvisation". The New Yorker. 25 (50): 25. Hiding telephone lines in the ivy at Princeton (with M. Galt).
  • Gill, Brendan (14 January 1985). "The Theatre: The Ignominy of Boyhood". The New Yorker. 60 (48): 108–110. Reviews Bill C. Davis' "Dancing in the End Zone", James Duff's "Home Front" and Rodgers and Hammerstein's "The King and I".
  • Gill, Brendan (28 January 1985). "The Talk of the Town: Notes and Comment". The New Yorker. 60 (50): 19–20. West 44th Street development.


  1. ^ Robbins, Alexandra (2002). Secrets of the Tomb: Skull and Bones, the Ivy League, and the Hidden Paths of Power. Boston: Little, Brown. ISBN 0-316-72091-7.
  2. ^ Weingarten, Marc (14 February 2010). "On the crime beat with St. Clair McKelway". Los Angeles Times.
  3. ^ a b Overbey, Erin (2010-03-22). "Eighty-Five from the Archive: Brendan Gill". ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2019-07-23.
  4. ^ The New Yorker, August 20, 1949.
  5. ^ Philip B. Eppard, editor, Critical Essays on John O'Hara, G. K. Hall & Co., 1994
  6. ^ Frank MacShane, editor, Collected Stories of John O'Hara, Random House, 1984
  7. ^ Fran Lebowitz, forward to A Rage to Live, Modern Library Classics, 2004
  8. ^ William Grimes, "The John O'Hara Cult, at Least, Is Faithful" The New York Times, November 9, 1996
  9. ^ "Fired exec: 'Starbucks saved my life' -". CNN. 5 February 2009. Retrieved 26 April 2010.

External linksEdit