HOPWOOD, AVERY (28 May 1882-1 July 1928) was a native Clevelander who became Broadway's leading playwright in the era immediately preceding that of Eugene O'Neill. The son of a west side butcher, he attended WEST HIGH SCHOOL and briefly sampled Western Reserve Univ. (see CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY) before completing his education at the Univ. of Michigan. Returning to Cleveland, he worked for a few months as a reporter for the CLEVELAND LEADER before leaving for New York.
His first play, Clothes, a collaboration with Channing Pollock, established his reputation as a writer of light drawing-room comedy. According to critic Leonard Hall of the New York Telegram, "he was the only living man who could write French farce better than a Frenchman." His most successful play was the mystery play written in collaboration with Mary Roberts Rinehart, The Bat, which ran for 867 performances. At the time (1920), Hopwood had 4 simultaneous successes running on Broadway. He and other connoisseurs regarded Fair and Warmer as his best play.
His Getting Gertie's Garter was opened in Cleveland, where he returned at least yearly to spend Christmas with his mother, Jule Prendergast Hopwood, in her home on Clinton Ave. When Hopwood died of a heart attack while swimming on the French Riviera, his mother brought the lifelong bachelor's remains back to Cleveland for burial in RIVERSIDE CEMETERY. Cleveland critic ARCHIE BELL later disclosed that before his death Hopwood had substantially completed a roman à clef exposing the American "theatrical system" and its victims. The novel, The Great Bordello: A Story of the Theatre, was uncovered in 1982 and published posthumously in 2011.
In his will, Hopwood donated a large portion of his fortune to the University of Michigan in order to establish the Avery Hopwood and Julie Hopwood Creative Writing Awards. Hopwood stated that "it is especially desired that students competing for prizes shall be allowed the widest possible latitude, and that the new, the unusual, and the radical shall be especially encouraged."
Updated by Jack Sharrar
Sharrar, Jack F. Avery Hopwood: His Life and Plays. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1998.