b. 29 January 1874, Portland, Maine, USA, d. 14 October 1956, New York, USA. An astonishingly prolific writer, among Davis’ early plays staged on Broadway, many of them melodramas, are Reaping The Whirlwind (1900), Lost In The Desert (1901) and The Confessions Of A Wife (1905). In 1906/7 alone came more than 20 plays, among them Chinatown Charlie, The Burglar’s Daughter, A Marked Woman, A Chorus Girl’s Luck In New York, It’s Never Too Late To Mend andDeadwood Dick’s Last Shot. Between 1910 and 1928, his pace slowed but there were still around 36 productions, including Lola (1911), What Happened To Mary (1913), Sinners (1915), Forever After (1919), The Nervous Wreck (1923), Easy Come, Easy Go (1925) andTo-Night At 12 (1928). In 1928 Davis also completed Whoopee!, which was based upon The Nervous Wreck. The success of this show, which ran for almost a year, prompted an adaptation of Easy Come, Easy Go into the musical Lady Fingers (1929). This show was less fortunate and ran for only three months. The same year saw him writing the book for the musical Spring Is Here.
Returning to drama, with an occasional comedy, through the 30s Davis wrote several more plays, including Just To Remind You (1931) and The Good Earth (1932). The latter, written in collaboration with Donald Davis, was adapted from Pearl S. Buck’s novel and provided the basis for the 1937 Oscar-nominated film. Similarly, his Jezebel (1934) was the basis for the 1938 film, which was also nominated. His Ethan Frome (1936) was based upon Edith Wharton’s 1911 novella and would be filmed in 1993. In 1937 Davis wrote the book for Virginia and in the early 40s came Mr And Mrs North (1941) and No Way Out (1944). In 1979, Whoopee! was revived on Broadway.
Owen Davis was sometimes credited as John Oliver. His son was stage and screen actor Owen Davis Jnr. (b. 6 October 1907, New York City, New York, USA, d. 21 May 1949, Long Island Sound, New York, USA). He acted on Broadway from 1928, appearing in several of his father’s plays, including To-Night At 12, Jezebel and Mr And Mrs North. He also completed several films prior to his death in 1949 from drowning.