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Golden Boy (play)

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First performance
4 November 1937

Lee Adams

Golden Boy (1939)

Clifford Odets

Charles Strouse

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Clifford Odets plays, Dramas

Golden Boy is a drama by Clifford Odets. The play was initially produced on Broadway by The Group Theatre in 1937. Odets' biggest hit was made into a 1939 film of the same name, starring William Holden in his breakthrough role, and also served as the basis for a 1964 musical with Sammy Davis, Jr..



The play focuses on Joe Bonaparte, whose dream of becoming a violinist could become a reality when prizefight promoter Roxy Gottlieb offers to sponsor him as a boxer. He finds himself torn between the lure of big money and the distinct possibility of injuring his hands, thereby destroying his musical career. Among those offering him advice are his Italian immigrant father, his manager Tom Moody, and Tom's girlfriend Lorna Moon, with whom Joe falls in love.

Production history

Following his 1935 successes Waiting for Lefty and Awake and Sing!, Odets went to Hollywood to write The General Died at Dawn with the intention of using his salary to support the Group Theatre, the independent theatre company that had produced his earlier plays, despite his previous protests against large corporations, including movie studios. His own internal struggle to choose between art and materialism became the basis for the theme of his play, his first to focus more on psychology and personal relationships than social criticism. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reviewer noted that Odets wrote about social consciousness in Waiting for Lefty and "lessons of faith" in Awake and Sing, but in Golden Boy he set out to "merely tell a story."

Odets called the play "symbolic," with one latter-era critic noting that "the show pits spiritual ideals against lust for fame and money in what can only be termed an implausible setup." According to John Lahr, "The heroes of 'Golden Boy' and 'The Big Knife' are both torn between commercial success and artistic fulfillment, driven crazy by their decision to live against their natures; both murder themselves out of nostalgia for their lost integrity."

The Broadway production, directed by Harold Clurman, opened on November 4, 1937 at the Belasco Theatre, where it ran for 250 performances. The cast included Luther Adler as Joe, Robert Lewis as Roxy, Morris Carnovsky as Joe's father, Roman Bohnen as Tom, and Frances Farmer as Lorna, with Lee J. Cobb, Elia Kazan, Harry Morgan, Howard Da Silva, Karl Malden and John Garfield in supporting roles.

The play was revived on Broadway at the ANTA Playhouse, opening on March 12, 1952 and closing on April 6, 1952 after 55 performances. John Garfield played Joe.

A second Broadway revival, produced by the Lincoln Center Theater, opened on December 6, 2012 at the Belasco Theatre. Direction is by Bartlett Sher with Seth Numrich as Joe Bonaparte and Yvonne Strahovski as Lorna Moon. The play closed on January 20, 2013 after 53 performances and 30 previews. Golden Boy received eight 2013 Tony Award nominations, including Best Revival of a Play, and three Drama Desk Award nominations, including Outstanding Revival of a Play.


Golden Boy (play) Wikipedia

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