Owen Gould Davis (January 29, 1874 – October 14, 1956) was an American dramatist. In 1919, he became the first elected president of the Dramatists Guild of America. He received the 1923 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his 1923 play Icebound, and penned hundreds of plays and scripts for radio and film. Before the First World War, he also wrote racy sketches of New York high jinks and low life for the Police Gazette under the name of Ike Swift. Many of these were set in the Tenderloin, Manhattan. Davis also wrote under several other pseudonyms, including Martin Hurley, Arthur J. Lamb, Walter Lawrence, John Oliver, and Robert Wayne.
Owen Davis in 1950
|Born||Owen Gould Davis|
January 29, 1874
Portland, Maine, U.S.
|Died||October 14, 1956 (aged 82)|
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Pen name||John Oliver|
|Alma mater||Harvard University|
|Notable awards||Pulitzer Prize for Drama (1923)|
|Children||Owen Davis Jr.|
He was the father of actor Owen Davis Jr., and playwright Donald Davis. His brother William Hammatt Davis was chairman of the National War Labor Board in Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration. Davis died in New York City.
As a boy, Owen Davis wrote plays for his eight brothers and sisters, who performed them for the town.
He attended the University of Tennessee in 1888-1889 and then transferred to Harvard University in 1890, spending three years there. At Harvard, he was active with the Society of Arts drama organization. For a time, he coached a New York preparatory school's football team.
He married Elizabeth Drury Breyer, an actress, in 1901 or 1902, and they had two sons.
For the first two decades of his writing career, Davis produced melodramas that followed a formula. His entry in the Encyclopedia of American Drama, edited by Jackson R. Bryer and Mary C. Hartig, noted, "The plays all contain life-threatening, visually exciting predicaments out of which the good emerge at the ultimate expense of the villains who put them there."
In 1897, Through the Breakers, Davis's first play, opened in Bridgeport, Connecticut. It ran for three years. His first Broadway play was Reaping the Whirlwind, which opened on September 17, 1900. The Internet Broadway Database lists 75 additional productions that were written by him, either under his own name or as John Oliver, or in which he was involved in some way.
Davis was on the staff of Paramount Pictures as a screenwriter from 1927 to 1930. His work during that time included They Had to See Paris (1929) and So This Is London (1930), both of which starred Will Rogers.
On October 13, 1956, Davis died in New York City at age 82. He had recently been released from a hospital after a three-year stay. He was survived by his wife, one of their sons, a brother, and a sister.
- Sketches of Gotham (as Ike Swift)(1906)
- Nellie, the Beautiful Cloak Model (1906)
- Deadwood Dick's Last Shot (1907)
- What Happened to Mary (1913)
- The Scrap of Paper (1917)
- The Detour (1921)
- Icebound (1923), for which he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama
Adapted into a 1924 silent film Icebound directed by William C. deMille
- The Nervous Wreck (1923), play, later made into the 1926 motion picture of the same name, and the 1944 motion picture Up in Arms; later produced as a musical, Whoopee!, staged on Broadway in 1928 and 1979 and made into the 1930 Whoopee!
- The Haunted House (1924)
- Lazybones (1924), made into the 1925 motion picture of the same name
- Beware of Widows (1925)
- Easy Come, Easy Go (1926), play later produced as a musical, Lady Fingers (1929)
- The Great Gatsby (1926), play based on the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, made into the 1949 motion picture
- Just to Remind You (1931), play which premiered at Lakewood Theatre in Maine, with Humphrey Bogart in lead
- The Good Earth (1932), dramatization of the Pearl S. Buck novel, later produced as the 1937 motion picture, all of the same name
- Jezebel (1933), original play turned into the 1938 motion picture of the same name
- The Convict's Sweetheart
- Ethan Frome (1935), play based on the Edith Wharton novel, produced on Broadway in 1936
- Mr. and Mrs. North (1941), dramatization from short stories by Richard Lockridge and Frances Lockridge, made into the 1942 motion picture
- The Snark Was a Boojum (1943), dramatization of a novel by Richard Shattuck
- No Way Out (1944)
- "1923 Pulitzer Prizes". The Pulitzer Prizes. Archived from the original on June 19, 2016. Retrieved January 20, 2018.
- Bryer, Jackson R.; Hartig, Mary C., eds. (2010). The Facts on File Companion to American Drama (2nd ed.). New York: Facts on File. pp. 119–120. ISBN 978-0-8160-7748-9.
- Roberts, Jerry (2003). The Great American Playwrights on the Screen: A Critical Guide to Film, Video, and DVD. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 129. ISBN 9781557835123. Retrieved January 20, 2018.
- McNamara, Brooks. "Davis, Owen Gould". American National Biography. Oxford University Press. Archived from the original on January 20, 2018. Retrieved January 20, 2018.
- Fischer, Heinz Dietrich; Fischer, Erika J. (2002). Complete Biographical Encyclopedia of Pulitzer Prize Winners, 1917-2000: Journalists, Writers and Composers on Their Ways to the Coveted Awards. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 53–54. ISBN 9783598301865. Retrieved January 20, 2018.
- Bryer, Jackson R.; Hartig, Mary C. (2015). Encyclopedia of American Drama. Infobase Learning. ISBN 9781438140766. Retrieved January 20, 2018.
- "Owen Davis". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Archived from the original on January 20, 2018. Retrieved January 20, 2018.
- Ellett, Ryan (2017). Radio Drama and Comedy Writers, 1928-1962. McFarland. p. 59. ISBN 9781476665931. Retrieved January 20, 2018.
- Bryer, Jackson R.; Hartig, Mary C. (2010). The Facts on File Companion to American Drama. Infobase Publishing. p. 120. ISBN 9781438129662. Retrieved January 20, 2018.
- "Owen Davis, Playwright, Dies in N.Y." Chicago Tribune. Illinois, Chicago. October 15, 1956. p. 77. Retrieved January 19, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- Staff writers (April 15, 1992). "Donald Davis Is Dead; Playwright Was 88". The New York Times. Retrieved December 12, 2008.
- Webster's Biographical Dictionary (First ed.). Springfield, MA: G. & C. Merriam Co. 1980.