Avery Hopwood

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Avery Hopwood
Avery Hopwood with Spanish dancer Rose Rolanda, 1924.

James Avery Hopwood (May 28, 1882 – July 1, 1928), was an American playwright, called the most successful playwright of the Jazz Age, having four plays running simultaneously on Broadway in 1920.


He was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Michigan (1905).

Hopwood started out as a journalist for a Cleveland newspaper as its New York correspondent, but within a year had a play, Clothes (1906), produced on Broadway. He became known as "The Playboy Playwright"[1] and specialized in comedies and farces, some of them with material considered risqué at the time. One play, The Demi-Virgin in 1921, prompted a court case because of its suggestive subject matter, including a risque game of cards, "Stripping Cupid", where a bevy of showgirls teased the audience in their lingerie. The case was dismissed.


His many plays included Nobody's Widow (1910), starring Blanche Bates; Fair and Warmer (1915), starring Madge Kennedy (filmed in 1919); The Gold Diggers (1919), starring Ina Claire (filmed in 1923 as The Gold Diggers, in 1928 as Gold Diggers of Broadway and also as Gold Diggers of 1933); Ladies' Night, 1920, starring Charlie Ruggles (filmed in 1928); the famous mystery play The Bat (with Mary Roberts Rinehart), 1920 (filmed in 1926 The Bat, 1930 The Bat Whispers, and 1959 The Bat); Getting Gertie's Garter (with Wilson Collison), 1921, starring Hazel Dawn (filmed in 1927 and 1945); The Demi-Virgin, 1921, also starring Dawn; The Alarm Clock, 1923; The Best People (with David Gray), 1924 (filmed in 1925 and as Fast and Loose in 1930), the song-farce Naughty Cinderella, 1925, starring Irene Bordoni and The Garden of Eden in 1927 (filmed in 1928 as The Garden of Eden).

Hopwood was asked to write the third act of Mary Roberts Rinehart's play; The Bat.[2] Hopwood collaborated with Rinehart to then work on the last act of the play in Sewickley and sometimes in New York.[2]

Interestingly, the early sound film, The Bat Whispers, played an influence on Bob Kane's Batman because the inspiration for Batman's costume came from the "mysterious Bat" character portrayed in the movie from 1930.[3]

A clever, adroit, masterful craftsman who wrote to the tastes of his public, Hopwood was inexhaustible in his work ethic. Although the press reported that he was engaged to vaudeville dancer and choreographer Rose Rolanda in 1924, Hopwood's close friend Carl Van Vechten confirmed in later years that it was all a publicity stunt. Rolanda would later marry caricaturist Miguel Covarrubias.


While swimming at Juan-les-Pins on the French Riviera, July 1, 1928, he suffered a heart attack and died. He is buried in Riverside Cemetery, Cleveland, Ohio, next to his mother, Jule.[4]

Hopwood Awards[edit]

The terms of Hopwood's will left a substantial portion of his estate to his alma mater, the University of Michigan for the establishment of the Avery Hopwood and Jule Hopwood Creative Writing Awards. The bequest stipulated: "It is especially desired that students competing for prizes shall be allowed the widest possible latitude, and that the new, the unusual, and the radical shall be especially encouraged." Famous Hopwood award winners include Robert Hayden, Marge Piercy, Arthur Miller, Betty Smith, Lawrence Kasdan, John Ciardi, Mary Gaitskill, Edmund White, Nancy Willard, Frank O’Hara, and Steve Hamilton.


  • Clothes (1906)
  • This Woman and This Man (1909)
  • Seven Days (1909) with Mary Roberts Rinehart
  • Judy Forgot (1910)
  • Nobody's Widow (1910)
  • Somewhere Else (1913)
  • Fair and Warmer (1915)
  • Sadie Love (1915)
  • Our Little Wife (1916)
  • Double Exposure (1918)
  • Tumble In (1919)
  • The Gold Diggers (1919)
  • The Girl in the Limousine (1919)
  • Ladies' Night (1920)
  • Spanish Love (1920) with Mary Roberts Rinehart
  • The Bat (1920) with Mary Roberts Rinehart
  • Getting Gertie's Garter (1921) with Wilson Collison
  • The Demi-Virgin (1921)
  • Why Men Leave Home (1922)
  • Little Miss Bluebeard (1923)
  • The Alarm Clock (1923)
  • The Best People (1924) with David Gray
  • The Harem (1924)
  • Naughty Cinderella (1925)
  • The Garden of Eden (1927)

The Great Bordello[edit]

Throughout his life, Hopwood worked on a novel that he hoped would "expose" the strictures the commercial theater machine imposed on playwrights, but the manuscript was never published. Jack Sharrar recovered the manuscript for this novel in 1982 during his research for Avery Hopwood, His Life and Plays. The novel was published in July 2011 as The Great Bordello.


WPA poster for The Alarm Clock by Avery Hopwood
  1. ^ Jim Beaver Biography for Avery Hopwood at Internet Movie Database
  2. ^ a b Cohn, Jan (1980). Improbable Fiction: The Life of Mary Roberts Rinehart. University of Pittsburgh press. p. 138. 
  3. ^ Kane, Bob. Batman and Me. Forestville, CA: Eclipse Books. p. 38. 
  4. ^ Vigil, Vicki Blum (2007). Cemeteries of Northeast Ohio: Stones, Symbols & Stories. Cleveland, OH: Gray & Company, Publishers. ISBN 978-1-59851-025-6

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]