MAIN NEWS HEADLINES
November 30 – December 7, 2006 Edition
Of Eugene ONeill
Biography Due in 08
NEW YORK, NY/11/28/06—Arthur Gelb, long associated with The New York Times and its former managing editor, as well as author of the critically acclaimed memoir, City Room, and his wife, Barbara, noted biographer, are at work on the highly anticipated second and final volume of their two-part biography of Eugene O’Neill. The book will be edited by Marian Wood and published by Marian Wood Books/G. P. Putnam’s Sons in hardcover in 2008.
O’Neill, the only American playwright to win the Nobel Prize and four Pulitzer Prizes, brought about the American theater’s coming of age in the 20th century. The book will follow the Gelbs’ unforgettable first volume, O’Neill: Life With Monte Cristo (Applause, 2000, distributed by Penguin Group). As yet untitled, the upcoming volume will include many never-before-revealed facts about the playwright, drawn from newly released letters and other previously restricted material.
Barbara Gelb commented: “The final volume of our biography will zero in on the influence on O’Neill’s life of the women who inspired his plays, beginning, as it must, with his difficult and manipulative mother. We are tracing his early romances, re-examining the relationship between him and his second wife, Agnes—and how that ill-fated marriage tragically affected the lives of their children, Shane O’Neill and Oona O’Neill Chaplin. We’ll be focusing intimately on O’Neill’s final, passionate and often stormy 25 years with his third wife—the beautiful, imperious, capricious actress, Carlotta Monterey.”
Having earlier interviewed Carlotta at length, the Gelbs have more recently gained access to her diaries and candid letters to friends, in which she often decried the tempestuous struggles of her life with O’Neill. They also interviewed, among many others, the woman who nursed O’Neill during his final devastating illness and who would not speak out candidly until after Carlotta’s death in 1991.
Arthur Gelb added, “Fascinating as it has been—and still is— to trace the specifics of how O’Neill’s plays reflect the turmoil of his life, what has always been most compelling is his uncompromising battle with the fates that shaped him …Barbara and I are in absolute awe of his valiant battle to meet—head on—the encroaching and horribly debilitating illness of his final writing years. In spite of the symptoms of a Parkinson’s-
like disease that hounded his every hour, he managed to wrest from himself Long Day’s Journey Into Night, The Iceman Cometh and A Moon for the Misbegotten.”
Arthur Gelb and Barbara Gelb’s O’Neill: Life With Monte Cristo was the first volume of a completely rewritten two-part biography. They originally published the first full-scale life of the dramatist in 1962, nine years after his death. In the intervening thirty-eight years, they conducted extensive interviews and unearthed masses of hitherto unknown or withheld material—letters, diaries, scenarios — from which they are fashioning this
supremely insightful life of O’Neill.
In volume one, the Gelbs took O’Neill from his lonely childhood through his seafaring, adventure-filled, and often self-destructive youth. It follows O’Neill to his first triumph on Broadway with Beyond the Horizon that set him on the path toward the ultimate brilliant achievements of The Iceman Cometh, A Moon for the Misbegotten, and what is universally regarded as America’s greatest play, Long Day’s Journey Into Night.
This new research and perspective probes O’Neill’s psychological torment over his mother’s rejection and his father’s benevolent tyranny, his suicide attempt, his struggle with alcoholism, and his tumultuous marriages.
About Arthur Gelb and Barbara Gelb
Arthur Gelb and Barbara Gelb are the authors of the seminal bestselling biography O’Neill, which was published by Harper & Brothers in1962. In 2000, they published the first volume of their projected two-volume, intensively rewritten O’Neill biography, O’Neill: Life with Monte Cristo (Applause; distributed by Penguin Group) and are currently at work on the final volume, which will include much new material based on vast new research. Together with the filmmaker, Ric Burns, they wrote Eugene O’Neill: A Documentary, which was telecast on PBS in March 2006. The Gelbs, who have received many awards for their work on O’Neill, have also written and lectured extensively about the playwright, the only American dramatist who has won the Nobel Prize and four Pulitzer Prizes. Their most recent honors include Arthur Gelb’s gold medal for lifetime cultural achievement from the National Arts Club and Barbara Gelb’s award for her outstanding research on O’Neill, presented by Yale University’s Beinecke Library in conjunction with ten other university research libraries.
Arthur Gelb has had a long and distinguished career as a reporter, critic and editor at The New York Times, and as a writer outside The Times. Mr. Gelb, who calls himself “a one hundred percent New Yorker,” attended New York City public schools, the City College of New York and New York University. He joined The Times as a copy boy, and during his 45-year tenure worked his way up to managing editor. Among his previous posts was assistant drama critic to the legendary dean of critics Brooks Atkinson, during a golden age of Broadway and the newly burgeoning Off Broadway theater movement. As chief cultural correspondent and culture editor, he expanded the paper’s arts coverage throughout the nation and abroad — for which he received France’s award as Commandeur of Arts and Lettres. A section of Mr. Gelb’s highly acclaimed memoir, City Room (published in hardcover by Putnam in 2003 and in trade paperback by Berkley in 2004), is being adapted for an HBO film, written and directed by George C. Wolfe and produced by Scott Rudin. Mr. Gelb is also co- producing a documentary for public television on the history of the actor in America, pegged to the 125thanniversary next year of the Actors Fund of America. Mr. Gelb serves as adviser to the library of the University of Texas. He is the co-editor of Great Lives of the Twentieth Century.
Barbara Gelb is the author of My Gene, a play based on O’Neill’s widow, the actress Carlotta Monterey, in which Colleen Dewhurst starred at the Public Theater in 1987. Mrs. Gelb recently organized a lecture-reading program about O’Neill and together with Arthur Gelb and the actress Zoe Caldwell toured here and abroad. Mrs. Gelb has written numerous articles for The New York Times Magazine and other publications, including profiles of Richard Rogers, Mike Nichols, Joseph Heller, Arthur Miller, George C. Scott, Michael Bennett and Richard Burton. She is also the author of So Short a Time, a biography of John Reed and Louise Bryant and two books on police politics and procedure: On the Track of Murder, a behind-the-scenes account of two years spent with an elite squad of NYPD homicide detectives; and Varnished Brass a study of the politics of the NYPD, seen through the eyes of its super-chiefs.
The Gelbs live in New York City and are the proud parents of two sons: Michael, who re-designs and builds homes in the Boston and Worcester suburbs, and Peter, who was recently appointed General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
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