Brooks Atkinson (November 28, 1894 – January 14, 1984) was an
American theatre critic. He worked for
The New York Times
The New York Times from 1925 to
1960. In his obituary, the Times called him "the theater's most
influential reviewer of his time." A war correspondent during World
War II, he received the Pulitzer Prize in 1947 for his work as the
Moscow correspondent for the Times.
5 External links
Atkinson in the drama department of
The New York Times
The New York Times (September
Atkinson was born in
Melrose, Massachusetts to Jonathan H. Atkinson, a
salesman statistician and Garafelia Taylor. As a boy, he printed
his own newspaper (using movable type), and planned a career in
journalism. He attended
Harvard University where he began writing
for the Boston Herald. He graduated from Harvard in 1917, and
worked at the
Springfield Daily News and the Boston Evening
Transcript, where he was assistant to the drama critic. In 1922, he
became the editor of the
New York Times
New York Times Book Review, and in 1925 the
drama critic. Atkinson married Oriana Macliveen, a writer, in
On the drama desk, Atkinson quickly became known for his commitment to
new kinds of theater—he was one of the first critical admirers of
Eugene O'Neill—for his interest in all kinds of drama, including
off-Broadway productions. In 1928, he said of the new play The Front
Page, "No one who has ground his heels in the grime of a police
headquarters press room will complain that this argot misrepresents
the gentlemen of the press." In 1932 Atkinson dropped the J. from
his bi-line and embraced the witty, direct writing style that became
His reviews were reputed to have the power to make or break a new
stage production: for example, his panning in 1940 of Lawrence Riley's
Return Engagement led to that comedy's closure after only eight
performances, this despite the fact that Riley's previous comedy,
Personal Appearance, had lasted for over 500 performances on
Broadway. Atkinson, who was dubbed "the conscience of
the theater," was not comfortable with the influence he wielded over
the Broadway box office.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Atkinson attempted
to enlist in the Navy, but was refused. He requested a reassignment to
war coverage, and the
New York Times
New York Times sent him to the front lines as a
war correspondent in China, where he covered the second Sino-Japanese
war until 1945. While in China, he visited Mao Tse-Tung in
was captivated by Mao, writing favorably on the Chinese Communist
Party (CCP) movement, and against the Nationalist government of Chiang
Kai-shek, which he saw as reactionary and corrupt. After visiting
Yenan, he wrote that the CCP political system was best described as an
"agrarian or peasant democracy, or as a farm labor party."
Atkinson viewed the Chinese Communist Party as Communist in name only
and more democratic than totalitarian; the Times effusively titled his
article Yenan, a Chinese Wonderland City.
After the end of the war, Atkinson stayed only briefly in New York
before being sent to
Moscow as a press correspondent; his work as the
Moscow correspondent for the Times earned him a Pulitzer Prize for
Correspondence in 1947.
After returning from the Soviet Union, Atkinson was reassigned to the
drama desk, where he remained until his retirement in 1960. He is
given much credit for the growth of
Off-Broadway into a major
theatrical force in the 1950s, and has been cited by many influential
people in the theatre as crucial to their careers. David Merrick's
infamous spoof ad for Subways Are For Sleeping—in which he hired
seven ordinary New Yorkers who had the same names as prominent drama
critics to praise his musical—had to wait for Atkinson's retirement,
because Merrick could not find anyone with the right name. There was
Brooks Atkinson in New York City.
Atkinson was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and
Sciences in 1960. He came briefly out of retirement in 1965 to
write a favorable review of Man of La Mancha; his review was printed
on the first page of the show's original souvenir program.[citation
needed] After his retirement, he became a member of The Players who
organized a tribute dinner for Atkinson's 80th birthday which was
attended by Arthur Miller, Elia Kazan, and other prominent actors and
He died on January 14, 1984 at Crestwood Hospital in Huntsville,
Alabama. Atkinson had moved to Huntsville from his farm in Durham, New
York in 1981 to be closer to his family.
Skyline Promenades, 1925
East of the Hudson, 1931
The Cingalese Prince, 1934
Once Around the Sun, 1951
New Voices in American Theater, 1955
Tuesdays and Fridays, 1963
This Bright Land: A Personal View, 1972
The Lively Years, 1920-1973, 1973
Henry Thoreau, The Cosmic Yankee, 1981
In 1960, the Mansfield
Theatre in New York was renamed Brooks Atkinson
Theatre in his honor.
^ a b c d e Sheppard, Richard K. (January 15, 1984). "Brooks Atkinson,
89, Dead; Key Voice In Drama 31 Years". New York Times. Retrieved 23
July 2014. Brooks Atkinson, the nation's most influential critic at a
time when American drama first emerged as a serious art form, died of
pneumonia yesterday at Crestwood Hospital in Huntsville, Ala. He was
89 years old. ...
^ "1947 Pulitzer Prizes". Pulitzer prize winners by year. Retrieved
August 9, 2017.
^ "Father of Brooks Atkinson."
New York Times
New York Times (August 27, 1944): 33.
Aug 27 1944. ProQuest. Web. 9 Aug. 2017 .
^ Finding Aid,
Brooks Atkinson Papers 1894-1984, *T Mss 1968-001,
Theatre Division, The New York Public Library for the
^ a b c "Atkinson, (Justin) Brooks." The Scribner Encyclopedia of
American Lives. Ed. Kenneth T. Jackson, Karen Markoe, and Arnold
Markoe. Vol. 1: 1981-1985. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1998.
^ a b Knightley, Phillip, The First Casualty: The War Correspondent as
Hero and Myth-Maker from the Crimea to Iraq, JHU Press (2004),
ISBN 0-8018-8030-0, ISBN 978-0-8018-8030-8, p. 303
^ a b Shewmaker, Kenneth E., Americans and Chinese Communists,
1927-1945: A Persuading Encounter, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University
Press (1971) ISBN 0-8014-0617-X
^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter A" (PDF). American Academy of
Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 27 April 2011.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Brooks Atkinson.
Theatre Broadway, New York, NY
Brooks Atkinson papers, 1904-1980, held by the Billy Rose Theatre
Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
ISNI: 0000 0001 1878 4235
BNF: cb134829675 (da