Academic Commons


Playwrights and Copyright

Wright, Doug

Broadway, 1926.

The Rialto is alive with drama.

At the Mansfield Theater, a revival of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Beyond the Horizon is enjoying a healthy run. At the Imperial, George Gershwin’s Prohibition romp Oh, Kay is a bona fide sell-out. At the Mayfair, an unexpected guest upstages the opening night of a searing marital tragedy entitled The Half- Naked Truth. In the words of critic Brooks Atkinson:

Toward the end of the second act. . .a gray cat walked amiably across the stage, peeped curiously over the footlights, and then sat down comfortably, yawned a little, blinked sleepily and apparently settled for the night. . .

. . .What drama could vie with the reality of a cat? Or what actor could put a cat to shame?. . .

. . .Unfortunately. . .the play. . .was amateurish in every [other] respect.

The Half-Naked Truth closed within a month; the fate of the cat remains unknown.

But the dramas playing out on Broadway that fateful year aren’t all happening onstage; in a nearby office building behind closed doors, a cluster of playwrights- Eugene O’Neill and humorist George Kaufman among them-are meeting with a group of theatrical producers.

The writers have recently established a Guild, just fourteen years old, to fight for equitable practices in their profession. Somewhat reluctantly, the producers have agreed to meet with them. On one point, the Guild is intractable: the right of its members to control their copyrights and prevent unauthorized changes in their scripts.


Downloadable resources are currently unavailable for this item.

Also Published In

Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts

More About This Work

Academic Units
Published Here
November 21, 2016
Academic Commons provides global access to research and scholarship produced at Columbia University, Barnard College, Teachers College, Union Theological Seminary and Jewish Theological Seminary. Academic Commons is managed by the Columbia University Libraries.