CWRU Links
Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

MCDERMOTT, WILLIAM F.

MCDERMOTT, WILLIAM F.

MCDERMOTT, WILLIAM F. (17 Feb. 1891-16 Nov. 1958), drama critic for nearly 40 years, was born in Indianapolis, Ind., to John and Elizabeth (McCarthy) McDermott. He attended Butler College, and began a newspaper career on the Indianapolis News in 1914 and in 3 years became its drama critic. Acting on the advice of numerous New York theatrical personalities, editor ERIE C. HOPWOOD brought McDermott to Cleveland as drama critic of the PLAIN DEALER in 1921. In addition to his customary critical jaunts to New York, McDermott persuaded the Plain Dealer to send him on annual tours of the European theatrical capitals, from where he sent back interviews with such luminaries as Somerset Maugham and Ferenc Molnar and accounts of visits to Max Reinhardt's castle and a Russian production of Hamlet.

With the decline of the legitimate stage in Cleveland after the 1930s, McDermott began writing columns on general topics. He covered the Detroit sit-down strikes of 1937, the Spanish Civil War, and during WORLD WAR II, the Italian front and subsequently the formation of the United Nations. Following the war, McDermott took a strong stand against local censorship, which won the notice of Newsweek; and voiced tentative concerns over the postwar growth of presidential power. Probably the high point of his critical career occurred during an illness in Dec. 1950, when Katherine Cornell brought the entire cast of her latest offering at the HANNA THEATER to his Bratenahl living room for a private performance.

McDermott was married twice. First, in May 1910 to Georgie Richards; they had a daughter, Louise (Corcoran). After divorcing in 1921, McDermott married his second wife, Eva Pace, in 1938.