John Gunther (August 30, 1901 – May 29, 1970) was an American
journalist and author whose success came primarily through a series of
popular sociopolitical works known as the "Inside" books
(1936–1972), including the best-selling
Inside U.S.A. in 1947. He is
best known today for the memoir Death Be Not Proud about the death of
his beloved teenage son, Johnny Gunther, from a brain tumor.
1 Personal life
2.1.1 Inside series
2.1.2 Other non-fiction and fiction works
2.1.3 Death Be Not Proud
2.2 Other Media
2.2.1 Broadway - Inside U.S.A.
2.2.2 Television - High Road
3 List of works
5 External links
Gunther was born in the Lakeview district of Chicago, growing up on
the North Side of the city. He was the first child of a family of
German descent. His father was Eugene Guenther, a traveling salesman
and his mother was Lizette Schoeninger Guenther. During World War I
the family changed the spelling of its name from Guenther to Gunther
in order to avoid having a German-sounding name.
In 1922, he was awarded a Bachelor of Philosophy degree from the
University of Chicago, where he was literary editor of the student
He worked briefly in the city as a reporter for the
News, but soon moved to
Europe to be a correspondent with the Daily
News's London Bureau, where he covered Europe, the Balkans, and the
Gunther met Frances Fineman in London in 1925 and the two were married
in 1927. Through 1936 they worked together—Frances as a foreign
correspondent for the London News Chronicle—throughout Europe.
Gunther wrote, "I was at one time or another in charge of Daily News
offices in London, Berlin, Vienna, Moscow, Rome, and Paris, and I also
visited Poland, Spain, the Balkans, and Scandinavia. I have worked in
every European country except Portugal. I saw at first hand the whole
extraordinary panorama of
Europe from 1924 to 1936." In Vienna,
Gunther worked alongside a group of English-speaking central European
correspondents that included Marcel Fodor, Dorothy Thompson, Robert
Best, and George Eric Rowe Gedye.
Gunther later described those years as
the bubbling, blazing days of American foreign correspondence in
Europe. . . . Most of us traveled steadily, met constantly, exchanged
information, caroused, took in each other's washing, and, even when
most fiercely competitive, were devoted friends. . . . We were
scavengers, buzzards, out to get the news, no matter whose wings got
Gunther's experiences as a journalist in interwar
Vienna formed the
basis for his novel The Lost City (1964).
The research and contacts Gunther developed as a reporter also led
directly to the first of the Inside books, Inside Europe, intended by
Gunther to summarize the European political situation for the general
reader. With the success of the Inside books starting in the late
1930s, Gunther resigned his position to devote his full-time to the
World War II
World War II he worked as a war correspondent in
The Gunthers had two children: Judy, who died in 1929 before the age
of 1, and John, Jr. (Johnny), who was born in 1929 and died in 1947 of
a brain tumor. The Gunthers divorced in 1944.
Gunther married Jane Perry Vandercook in 1948; the two adopted a
Gunther died of liver cancer on May 29, 1970.
The books that made Gunther famous in his time were the "Inside"
series of continental surveys. For each book, Gunther traveled
extensively through the area the book covered, interviewed political,
social, and business leaders, talked with average people, reviewed
area statistics, and then wrote a lengthy overview of what he had
learned and how he interpreted it.
Europe (published in 1936), Gunther wrote, "This book has
had a striking success all over the world. I was fortunate in that it
appeared at just the right time, when the three totalitarian dictators
took the stage and people began to be vitally interested in them."
In 1947, Gunther tackled Inside U.S.A., visiting all of the then-48
states. On the 50th anniversary of the book's publication, Arthur
Schlesinger Jr., appraised the book and its impact:
This book, now half a century old, is an astonishing tour de force. It
presents a shrewd, fast-moving, sparkling panorama of the United
States at this historic moment of apparent triumph. Sinclair Lewis
called it "the richest treasure-house of facts about America that has
ever been published, and probably the most spirited and interesting."
At the same time, in its preoccupations and insights Inside U.S.A.
foresaw dilemmas and paradoxes that were to harass and frustrate
Americans for the rest of the century.
The Inside series grew to include volumes covering all populated
continents: Inside Europe, Inside U.S.A., Inside Asia, Inside Latin
America, Inside Africa, Inside Russia Today, and finally Inside
Australia and New Zealand (with W. H. Forbis). Several of these
volumes were issued multiple times in updated and revised editions
over the years as world events demanded.
Other non-fiction and fiction works
In addition to the "Inside" series and related volumes, Gunther wrote
eight novels and three biographies. Most notable of these are Bright
Nemesis, The Troubled Midnight, Roosevelt in Retrospect (published in
1950) and Eisenhower, a biography of the famous general released in
1952, the year
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected President. In
addition, he published several books for young readers, including a
Alexander the Great
Alexander the Great in 1953, and Meet Soviet Russia, a
two-volume adaptation of Inside Russia Today in 1962.
Death Be Not Proud
The book for which Gunther is best remembered today, however, does not
deal with the intrigues of politics: Death Be Not Proud is the story
of his son, Johnny, who died of a brain tumor at the age of 17. In the
book, "a restrained and moving work intended for family and
friends", the elder Gunther details the struggles that he and his
ex-wife Frances Fineman went through in attempting to save their son's
life: the many treatments pursued (everything from radical surgery to
strictly controlled diet), the ups and downs of apparent remission and
eventual relapse, and the strain it placed on all three of them.
Gunther portrays his son as a remarkable young man – he corresponded
Albert Einstein about physics – and the
heartbreak of his death is told so movingly by Gunther ("all that is
left of a life!" he wrote at the end), that the book became a
best-seller, and in 1975 was made into an Emmy-nominated television
movie starring Arthur Hill as John Gunther,
Jane Alexander as his
Robby Benson as Johnny. It is a staple of many high-school
curricula to this day.
Broadway - Inside U.S.A.
Inside U.S.A. was made into a Broadway revue, also titled Inside
U.S.A., in 1948, with songs by
Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz. The
production starred, among others,
Beatrice Lillie and Jack Haley. It
played for 399 performances.
Television - High Road
From September 7, 1959, until September 17, 1960, Gunther was host and
narrator of a television program on the ABC network entitled John
Gunther's High Road. It originally aired Monday nights at 8:30, but
soon switched to Saturday night at 8 p.m., immediately following the
Dick Clark variety show. The High Road program consisted of
travelogues of various nations around the world. Some of the films
were produced especially for this program and others were obtained
from other sources. The common thread of all episodes was Gunther's
narration, although he had little or nothing to do with the actual
List of works
(1936) Inside Europe
(1938 ed) Inside
Europe (includes minor updates)
(1939 ed) Inside
Europe (includes minor updates)
(1939) The High Cost of Hitler
(1939) Inside Asia
(1940 ed) Inside
Europe (includes major additions and changes due to
the geopolitical impacts of
Hitler and Nazi Germany)
(1941) Inside Latin America
(1947) Inside U.S.A.
(1949) Death Be Not Proud, memoir
(1949) Behind the Curtain (published in the UK as Behind Europe's
(1950) Roosevelt in Retrospect: A Profile in History, biography
(1951) The Riddle of MacArthur: Japan, Korea, and the Far East
(1952) Eisenhower, the Man and the Symbol, biography
(1953) Alexander the Great, biography
(1955) Inside Africa
(1956) Days to Remember: America 1945-1955 (with Bernard Quint)
(1958) Inside Russia Today
(1959) Julius Caesar
(1960) Taken at the Flood: The Story of Albert D. Lasker, biography
(1961) A Fragment of Autobiography: The Fun of Writing the Inside
(1962) Meet Soviet Russia (2 volumes)
(1967) Inside South America
(1969) Twelve Cities
(1972) John Gunther's Inside Australia and New Zealand (with W. H.
Forbis) ISBN 0-241-02180-4
(1926) The Red Pavilion
(1927) Peter Lancelot: An Amusement
(1926) Eden for One: An Amusement
(1929) The Golden Fleece
(1932) Bright Nemesis
(1945) The Troubled Midnight
(1964) The Lost City
(1970) The Indian Sign (published in the UK as Quatrain)
^ Cuthbertson, Ken (1992). Inside: The
Biography of John Gunther.
Bonus Books. pp. 5–8. ISBN 978-0929387703.
^ Cuthbertson, Ken. Inside: The
Biography of John Gunther.
^ a b "Gunther, Frances Fineman. Papers, 1915-1963: A Finding Aid".
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in
America. Harvard University Library/Radcliffe College. September 1991.
Retrieved December 2, 2012.
^ John Gunther: Abbreviated profile from World Authors 1900-1950.
Accessed 4 July 2007.
^ VIENNA'S CAFÉ LOUVRE IN THE 1920s & 1930s: Meeting Place for
Foreign Correspondents by Dan Durning, February 2012. Accessed 17 Jan
^ a b c d Quoted in "Man from Mars," Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Atlantic
Monthly, April 1997.
22 October 2012.
^ Encyclopædia Britannica, "John Gunther",
accessed 22 October 2012
^ John J. Gunther, About the Author,
Biography at Harper Collins
Publishers, Accessed 22 October 2012.
^ IBDB: The official source for Broadway Information
^ Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh, The Complete Directory to Prime Time
Network and Cable TV Shows, 1946 to the Present, eighth edition,
copyright 2003, Ballantine Books, page 616.
"Guide to the
John Gunther Papers 1935-1967".
Research Center. The University of
Chicago Library. Retrieved December
John Gunther on IMDb
ISNI: 0000 0001 2341 8352
BNF: cb109019771 (data)