Melvyn Hayes Gussow
December 19, 1933
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Died||April 29, 2005 (aged 71)|
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Occupation||Theater critic, movie critic, author|
|The New York Times; Newsweek; Army newspaper Heidelberg, Germany|
|Spouse(s)||Ann Meredith Beebe Gussow (19??-2005; his death)|
|Children||Ethan Meredith Gussow|
Gussow was born in New York City and grew up in Rockville Centre, Long Island. He attended South Side High School. and Middlebury College, where he served as editor of The Campus, and graduated in 1955 with a BA in American literature. He earned an MA from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in 1956.
Gussow was a writer for the Army newspaper in Heidelberg, Germany, where he was stationed for two years. He was hired by Newsweek, where he became a movie and theater critic. His first Broadway play review was for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in 1962. This review began a lifelong relationship with the play's author, Edward Albee, that included Gussow's 1999 biography of the playwright entitled Edward Albee: A Singular Journey.
Gussow joined the New York Times in 1969 and over his 35-year career wrote more than 4,000 of the newspaper's reviews and articles. He authored eight books, including a series of four which were considered "conversations" with playwrights Arthur Miller, Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, and Tom Stoppard. Times arts reporter Jesse McKinley notes that Gussow's interview collections became "staples of college drama curriculums and the libraries of gossip-loving theater fans".
In the late 1960s and in 1970 he and his wife Ann and son Ethan, actor Dustin Hoffman, and several other families lived in apartments in a townhouse at 16 West 11th Street. On March 6, 1970, the townhouse next door to theirs was destroyed by an explosion of dynamite that killed three and injured two members of the Weathermen organization. In an article written by Gussow on the 30th anniversary of the disaster, Gussow reported an FBI finding that "had all the explosives detonated, the explosion would have leveled everything on both sides of the street." He and his family remained residents of Greenwich Village after the explosion, maintaining a home on West 10th Street.
Gussow died on April 29, 2005 at New York-Presbyterian Hospital from bone cancer at the age of 71. He had kept working until just three weeks before his death, writing at that time an obituary along with New York Times colleague Charles McGrath of Canadian-born Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Saul Bellow.
In 2008, Gussow was inducted posthumously into the American Theater Hall of Fame at the same time as actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein, the actors John Cullum, Lois Smith and Dana Ivey, the director Jack O'Brien, the playwright Peter Shaffer, and the librettist Joseph Stein.
The papers and audio/video recordings of Mel Gussow were gifted to the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin in 2009. The extensive collection of over 200 boxes consists of article and manuscript drafts, interview notes and transcripts, correspondence, scrapbooks, photographs, subject files, clippings, and published material. Over 900 sound recordings of Gussow's interviews with actors, playwrights, writers, and directors are held in the Ransom Center's Sound Recordings Collection. In 2018, the Ransom Center began releasing the interviews online as part of their digital collections.
- McKinley, Jesse (May 1, 2005). "Mel Gussow, Critic, Dies at 71: A Champion of Playwrights" (Web). The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
Mr. Gussow was survived by his wife, Ann, and his son, Ethan, both of Manhattan, and by a brother, Paul.
- Gussow, Mel (November 12, 1997). "At Lunch With: Doris Kearns Goodwin" (Web). The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
In common with Ms. Goodwin, I grew up in Rockville Centre. Her older sister, Jeanne, was a classmate of mine at South Side High School
- Gussow, Mel (March 5, 2000). "The House On West 11th Street" (Web). The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved February 25, 2009.
- Staff (September 27, 1999). "Weddings: Susan Baldomar, Ethan Gussow". The New York Times. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
- Staff (May 4, 2005). "Paid Notice: Deaths: Gussow, Melvyn" (Web). The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved April 9, 2011.
- Gussow, Mel (April 6, 2005). "Saul Bellow, Who Breathed Life Into American Novel, Dies at 89" (Web). The New York Times. The New York Times Company.
- Andrew Gans (January 28, 2008). "Fierstein, Ivey, O'Brien and More Inducted Into Theater Hall of Fame Jan. 28; Tune Hosts". Playbill.com. Archived from the original on February 6, 2008.
- "Mel Gussow: An Inventory of His Collection at the Harry Ransom Center". norman.hrc.utexas.edu. Retrieved 2016-04-09.
- "Theatre critic Mel Gussow's legendary interviews available online". sites.utexas.edu. Retrieved 2018-04-16.