Stewart, Donald Ogden


Born: November 3, 1894
Died: August 2, 1980
Ohio connection: Birth

Donald Ogden Stewart was born in 1894 in Columbus, Ohio, the son of Gilbert Holland Stewart, a prominent judge, and Clara (Landon) Stewart. He received an A.B. degree from Yale University in 1916. After graduation, he attempted a career in business, working for American Telephone and Telegraph in Minneapolis. While there, he became friends with F. Scott Fitzgerald, who inspired him to develop an interest in writing. When Fitzgerald moved to New York City a few years later, Stewart chose to leave his business ventures behind and follow him to New York. Fitzgerald introduced him to Vanity Fair editor Edmund Wilson, who published several of Stewart`s parodies of contemporary authors. He would write for the magazine from 1921 until 1929. His first book, published in 1929, was called A Parody Outline of History: Wherein may be found a curiously irreverent treatment of American historical events, imagining them as they would be narrated by america’s most characteristic contemporary authors. It was an anthology of humorous parodies on numerous popular writers of the day.

His style in this book became known as “crazy humor.” His next book, Aunt Polly`s Story of Mankind, satirized middle class and religious values. During this time, he became involved in the Algonquin Round Table, a group of New York area authors considered to be at the forefront of literary criticism. Stewart married Beatrice Ames in 1926 and they had two children together: Ames and Donald, Jr. The marriage ended in divorce in 1938, after which Stewart married a writer, Ella Winter Steffens. In the 1930s, Stewart left New York for Hollywood, where he would become a playwright and screenwriter. His success peaked with his winning the Academy Award for the screenplay of The Philadelphia Story in 1940. Because of his membership in the Communist Party, however, he was forced to leave the country in 1951, as the blacklisting of Communists became prevalent during the McCarthy era. He moved to England, where he did little writing other than an autobiography, By a Stroke of Luck! Stewart died August 2, 1980, in London.

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Academy Award nomination, 1930-31, for Laughter; Academy Award for best screenplay, 1940, for The Philadelphia Story.