George Jean Nathan

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George Jean Nathan
Born (1882-02-14)February 14, 1882
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Died April 8, 1958(1958-04-08) (aged 76)
New York, NY
Nationality American
Occupation drama critic and magazine editor

George Jean Nathan (February 14, 1882 – April 8, 1958) was an American drama critic and editor. He worked closely with H.L. Mencken, bringing the literary magazine The Smart Set to prominence as an editor, and co-founding and editing The American Mercury and The American Spectator.

Early life[edit]

Nathan was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He graduated from Cornell University in 1904, where he was a member of the Quill and Dagger society and an editor of the Cornell Daily Sun.

Relationships and marriage[edit]

Though he published a paean to bachelorhood (The Bachelor Life, 1941), Nathan had a reputation as a ladies' man and was not averse to dating women working in the theater. The character of Addison De Witt, the waspish theater critic who squires a starlet (played by a then-unknown Marilyn Monroe) in the 1950 film All About Eve was based on Nathan. He had a romantic relationship with actress Lillian Gish, beginning in the late 1920s and lasting almost a decade. Gish repeatedly refused his proposals of marriage.[1]

Nathan eventually married considerably younger stage actress, Julie Haydon, in 1955.


Nathan died in New York City in 1958, aged 76.


The George Jean Nathan Award, an honor in dramatic criticism, is named after him. Nathan is also a member of the American Theater Hall of Fame.[2]


"One does not go to the theater to see life and nature; one goes to see the particular way in which life and nature happen to look to a cultivated, imaginative and entertaining man who happens, in turn, to be a playwright."[3]
"Patriotism is an arbitrary veneration of real estate above principles."
"Great art is as irrational as great music. It is mad with its own loveliness." (From his book House of Satan)
"Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote."
"My code of life and conduct is simply this: work hard, play to the allowable limit, disregard equally the good and bad opinion of others, never do a friend a dirty trick, eat and drink what you feel like when you feel like, never grow indignant over anything, trust to tobacco for calm and serenity, bathe twice a day . . . learn to play at least one musical instrument and then play it only in private, never allow one's self even a passing thought of death, never contradict anyone or seek to prove anything to anyone unless one gets paid for it in cold, hard coin, live the moment to the utmost of its possibilities, treat one's enemies with polite inconsideration, avoid persons who are chronically in need, and be satisfied with life always but never with one's self."
"No man can think clearly when his fists are clenched."
"I drink to make other people interesting."
"Opera in English is, in the main, just about as sensible a plea as baseball in Italian."[4]


  1. ^ Albin Krebs, "Lillian Gish, 99, a Movie Star Since Movies Began, is Dead", The New York Times, March 1, 1993.
  2. ^ "Theater Hall of Fame members". Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  3. ^ Lumley, Frederick (1972). New Trends in 20th Century Drama: A Survey Since Ibsen and Shaw. London: Barrie and Jenkins. p. 12. ISBN 978-0-19-519680-1. 
  4. ^ Nathan, George Jean (January 1926). "Clinical Notes". American Mercury magazine. 

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