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Edna Ferber
Novelist, playwright

Edna Ferber

Edna Ferber
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Novelist, playwright
Was Writer Playwright Novelist Screenwriter Journalist
From United States of America
Field Film, TV, Stage & Radio Journalism Literature
Gender female
Birth 15 August 1885, Kalamazoo
Death 16 April 1968, New York City (aged 82 years)
Residence Appleton, Kalamazoo, New York City
Edna Ferber
The details (from wikipedia)


Edna Ferber (August 15, 1885 – April 16, 1968) was an American novelist, short story writer and playwright. Her novels were especially popular and included the Pulitzer Prize-winning So Big (1924), Show Boat (1926; made into the celebrated 1927 musical), Cimarron (1929; made into the 1931 film which won the Academy Award for Best Picture), and Giant (1952; made into the 1956 Hollywood movie).


Early years

Ferber was born August 15, 1885, in Kalamazoo, Michigan, to a Hungarian-born Jewish storekeeper, Jacob Charles Ferber, and his Milwaukee, Wisconsin-born wife, Julia (Neumann) Ferber. After living in Chicago, Illinois, and Ottumwa, Iowa, at the age of 12 Ferber and her family moved to Appleton, Wisconsin, where she graduated from high school and briefly attended Lawrence University. She took newspaper jobs at the Appleton Daily Crescent and the Milwaukee Journal before publishing her first novel. She covered the 1920 Republican National Convention and 1920 Democratic National Convention for the United Press Association.


Ferber's novels generally featured strong female protagonists, along with a rich and diverse collection of supporting characters. She usually highlighted at least one strong secondary character who faced discrimination ethnically or for other reasons; through this technique, Ferber demonstrated her belief that people are people and that the not-so-pretty people have the best character.

Several theatrical and film productions have been based on her works, including Show Boat, Giant, Ice Palace, Saratoga Trunk, Cimarron (which won an Oscar) and the 1960 remake. Three of these works – Show Boat, Saratoga Trunk and Giant – have been developed into musicals.

When composer Jerome Kern proposed turning the very serious Show Boat into a musical, Ferber was shocked, thinking it would be transformed into a typical light entertainment of the 1920s. It was not until Kern explained that he and Oscar Hammerstein II wanted to create a different type of musical that Ferber granted him the rights. Saratoga, based on Saratoga Trunk, was written at a much later date, after serious plots had become acceptable in stage musicals.

In 1925, she won the Pulitzer Prize for her book So Big, which was made into a silent film starring Colleen Moore that same year. An early talkie movie remake followed, in 1932, starring Barbara Stanwyck and George Brent, with Bette Davis in a supporting role. A 1953 remake of So Big starring Jane Wyman in the Stanwyck role is the version most often seen today.

Ferber was a member of the Algonquin Round Table, a group of wits who met for lunch every day at the Algonquin Hotel in New York. Ferber and another member of the Round Table, Alexander Woollcott, were long-time enemies, their antipathy lasting until Woollcott's death in 1943, although Howard Teichmann states in his biography of Woollcott that their feud was due to a misunderstanding. According to Teichmann, Ferber once described Woollcott as "a New Jersey Nero who has mistaken his pinafore for a toga."

Ferber collaborated with Round Table member George S. Kaufman on several plays presented on Broadway, most notably The Royal Family (1927), Dinner At Eight (1932) and Stage Door (1936).

Plaque located in Manhattan, at 65th Street & Central Park West, in the building in which Edna Ferber lived for six years

Personal life

Ferber never married, had no children, and is not known to have engaged in a romance or sexual relationship. In her early novel Dawn O'Hara, the title character's aunt is said to have remarked, "Being an old maid was a great deal like death by drowning – a really delightful sensation when you ceased struggling." Ferber did take a maternal interest in the career of her niece Janet Fox, an actress who performed in the original Broadway casts of Ferber's plays Dinner at Eight and Stage Door.

Ferber died at her home in New York City, of stomach cancer, at the age of 82.


Art, entertainment, and media

  • Ferber was portrayed by the actress Lili Taylor in the film Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994).
  • In 2008, The Library of America selected Ferber's article "Miss Ferber Views 'Vultures' at Trial" for inclusion in its two-century retrospective of American True Crime.
  • On July 29, 2002, in her hometown of Appleton, Wisconsin, the U.S. Postal Service issued an 83¢ Distinguished Americans series postage stamp honoring her. Artist Mark Summers, well known for his scratchboard technique, created this portrait for the stamp referencing a black-and-white photograph of Ferber taken in 1927.
  • A fictionalized version of Edna Ferber appears briefly as a character in Philipp Meyer's novel The Son (2013).
  • An additional fictionalized version of Edna Ferber, with her as the protagonist, appears in Downtown Strut: An Edna Ferber mystery. It was written in 2013 by Ed Ifkovic and published by Poisoned Pen Press [1].


  • In her hometown of Appleton, Wisconsin, the Edna Ferber Elementary School was named after her. Construction of the school was initially voted down in a 1971 referendum.


  • Dawn O'Hara (1911)
  • Buttered Side Down (1912)
  • Roast Beef, Medium (Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1913)
  • Personality Plus (1914)
  • Emma Mc Chesney and Co. (1915)
  • Our Mrs. McChesney (1915) (play, with George V. Hobart)
  • Fanny Herself (1917)
  • Cheerful – By Request (1918)
  • Half Portions (1919)
  • $1200 a Year: A Comedy in Three Acts (1920) (play, with Newman Levy)
  • The Girls (Edna Ferber novel) (1921)
  • Gigolo (1922)
  • So Big (1924) (won Pulitzer Prize)
  • Minick: A Play (1924) (play, with G. S. Kaufman)
  • Show Boat (1926, Grosset & Dunlap)
  • Stage Door (1926) (play, with G.S. Kaufman)
  • Mother Knows Best (1927)
  • Old Charleston (1927)
  • The Royal Family (1927) (play, with G. S. Kaufman)
  • Cimarron (1929)
  • American Beauty (1931)
  • Dinner at Eight (1932) (play, with G. S. Kaufman)
  • They Brought Their Women (1933)
  • Come and Get It (1935)
  • Trees Die at the Top (1937)
  • Nobody's in Town (1938)
  • A Peculiar Treasure (1939)
  • The Land Is Bright (1941) (play, with G. S. Kaufman)
  • Saratoga Trunk (1941)
  • No Room at the Inn (1941)
  • Great Son (1945)
  • Saratoga Trunk (1945) (film, with Casey Robinson)
  • One Basket (1947)
  • Bravo (1949) (play, with G. S. Kaufman)
  • Giant (1952)
  • Ice Palace (1958)
  • A Kind of Magic (1963)

Musicals adapted from Ferber novels:

  • Show Boat (1927) – music by Jerome Kern, lyrics and book by Oscar Hammerstein II, produced by Florenz Ziegfeld
  • Saratoga (musical) (1959) – music by Harold Arlen, lyrics by Johnny Mercer, dramatized by Morton DaCosta
  • Giant (2009) – music and lyrics by Michael John LaChiusa, book by Sybille Pearson

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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