The Life of Thornton Wilder

Posted 20 August 2015

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1897 Born in Madison, Wisconsin (April 17)

1906 Moves to Hong Kong in May and to Berkeley, California in October

1906-1910 Emerson Public School in Berkeley

1910-1911 China Inland Mission School, Chefoo, China (one year)

1912-1913 Thacher School, Ojai, California (one year). First play known to be produced: The Russian Princess

1915 Graduates from Berkeley High School; active in school dramatics

1915-1917 Oberlin College; published regularly

1920 B.A. Yale College (three month service with U.S. Army in 1918); many publications

1920-1921 American Academy in Rome (eight month residency)

1920s French teacher at Lawrenceville School, Lawrenceville, New Jersey (’21-’25 and ’27-’28)

1924 First visit to the MacDowell Colony, Peterborough, New Hampshire

1926 M.A. in French literature, Princeton University

The Trumpet Shall Sound produced Off-Broadway (American Laboratory Theatre)

The Cabala (first novel)

1927 The Bridge of San Luis Rey (novel, Pulitzer Prize)

1928 The Angel That Troubled the Waters (first published collection of drama — playlets)

1930s Part-time faculty, University of Chicago (comparative literature and composition); lectures across the country; first Hollywood screenwriting assignment (1934); extensive foreign travel

1930 The Woman of Andros (novel)

Completion of home for his family and himself in Hamden, Connecticut

1931 The Long Christmas Dinner and Other Plays (six one-act plays)

1932 Lucrece opens on Broadway staring Katharine Cornell (translation of André Obey’s Le Viol de Lucrèce)

1935 Heaven’s My Destination (novel)

1937 A Doll’s House (adaptation/translation) opens on Broadway with Ruth Gordon

1938 Our Town (Pulitzer Prize) and The Merchant of Yonkers open on Broadway

1942 The Skin of Our Teeth opens on Broadway (Pulitzer Prize)

Screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock’s The Shadow of a Doubt

1942-1945 Service with Army Air Force in North Africa and Italy (Lieut. Col. at discharge — Bronze Star and O.B.E.)

1948 The Ides of March (novel); performing in his plays in summer stock in this period

The Victors opens Off-Broadway (translation of Sartre’s Morts sans sépulture)

1949 Major role in Goethe Convocation in Aspen; lectures widely

1951-1952 Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard

1952 Gold Medal for Fiction, American Academy of Arts and Letters

1953 Cover of TIME Magazine (January 12)

1955 The Matchmaker opens on Broadway staring Ruth Gordon

The Alcestiad produced at Edinburgh Festival with Irene Worth (as A Life in the Sun)

1957 German Peace Prize

1961 Libretto for The Long Christmas Dinner (music by Paul Hindemith — premieres in Mannheim, West Germany)

1962 “Plays for Bleecker Street” (Someone from Assisi, Infancy, and Childhood) premiere at NYC’s Circle in the Square

Libretto for The Alcestiad (music by Louise Talma — premieres in Frankfurt, West Germany)

1963 Presidential Medal of Freedom

1964 Hello, Dolly! starring Carol Channing opens on Broadway

1965 National Book Committee’s Medal for Literature

1967 The Eighth Day (National Book Award for Fiction)

1973 Theophilus North (novel)

1975 Dies in sleep in Hamden, CT on December 7. Buried at Mt. Carmel Cemetery, Hamden, Connecticut

For more information, please visit thorntonwilder.com and thorntonwildersociety.org.

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