b. Sidney Coe Howard, 26 June 1891, Oakland, California, USA, d. 23 August 1939, Tyringham, Massachusetts, USA. A respected and distinguished playwright, Howard gained considerable success in the theatre with plays such as Swords (1921), Casanova (1923, which he translated from Lorenzo De Azertis’ original and which was staged with incidental music by Deems Taylor), Bewitched (1924, co-written with Edward Sheldon), Ned McCobb’s Daughter (1926, film 1928), Half Gods (1929, filmed a year later as Free Love), The Silver Cord (1933), The Late Christopher Bean (1932, filmed as Christopher Bean in 1933), Dodsworth (1934, film 1936), Paths Of Glory (1935, based upon Humphrey Cobb’s novel and was also the basis of the 1957 film), and Yellow Jack (1934, film 1938). Most successful of all was Howard’s play They Knew What They Wanted (1924), for which he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize and which was filmed three times, as The Secret Hour (1928), A Lady To Love (1930) and They Knew What They Wanted (1940). This play was also the basis for the musical The Most Happy Fella (1956), which, with songs by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe, beguiled Broadway audiences for a 20-month run. This was followed by a 288-performance run in London, several revivals, regional theatre productions, concert presentations, albums by original and succeeding casts, and with numerous recordings of individual songs.
During the 20s and 30s, Howard was a member of the Playwrights’ Company (with Maxwell Anderson, S.N. Behrman, Elmer Rice and Robert E. Sherwood), an organization responsible for staging many prestigious productions. Howard was also successful in Hollywood, writing screenplays, sometimes in collaboration, for most of the adaptations of his plays as well as Condemned (1929), Raffles (1930, remade 1940) and Arrowsmith (1931). His greatest Hollywood success was his screenplay for Gone With The Wind (1939). Based upon Margaret Mitchell’s sprawling novel, the film was, and remains, hugely popular. Howard was awarded an Oscar for Best Screenplay but sadly, some months before the award ceremony, a tractor he was driving on his farm rolled over and crushed him to death.