Avery Jules Hopwood (May 28, 1882 - July 1, 1928), was one of the most successful playwrights of the Jazz Age, having four plays running simultaneously on Broadway in 1920.
He was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Michigan (1905),
Hopwood started out as a journalist for a Cleveland newspaper as its New York correspondent, but within a year had a play, Clothes (1906), produced on Broadway. He became known as "The Playboy Playwright" and specialized in comedies and farces, some of them with material considered risqué at the time. One play, The Demi-Virgin in 1921, prompted a court case because of its suggestive subject matter, including a risque game of cards, "Stripping Cupid", where a bevy of showgirls teased the audience in their lingerie. The case was dismissed.
His many plays included Nobody's Widow (1910), starring Blanche Bates; Fair and Warmer (1915), starring Madge Kennedy (filmed in 1919); The Gold Diggers (1919), starring Ina Claire (filmed in 1923 as The Gold Diggers, in 1928 as Gold Diggers of Broadway and also as Gold Diggers of 1933); Ladies Night (in a Turkish Bath) (with Charlton Andrews), 1920, starring Charlie Ruggles (filmed in 1928); the famous mystery play The Bat (with Mary Roberts Rinehart), 1920 (filmed in 1926, 1930 and 1959); Getting Gertie's Garter (with Wilson Collison), 1921, starring Hazel Dawn (filmed in 1927 and 1945); The Demi-Virgin, 1921, also starring Hazel Dawn; The Alarm Clock, 1923; The Best People (with David Gray), 1924 (filmed in 1925 and as Fast and Loose in 1930), the song-farce Naughty Cinderella, 1925, starring Irene Bordoni and The Garden of Eden in 1927 (filmed in 1928 as The Garden of Eden). A clever, adroit, masterful craftsman who wrote to the tastes of his public, Hopwood was inexhaustible in his work ethic. Although the press reported that he was engaged to vaudeville dancer and choreographer Rose Rolanda in 1924, Hopwood's close friend Carl Van Vechten confirmed in later years that it was all a publicity stunt. Rolanda would later marry caricaturist Miguel Covarrubias.
Sadly, personal troubles related to his homosexuality and his inability to break from the formula writing that made him a success led to his early death at age 46. While swimming at Juan-les-Pins on the French Riviera, July 1, 1928, he suffered a heart attack and died. He is buried in Riverside Cemetery, Cleveland, Ohio, next to his mother. Throughout his life, Hopwood worked on a novel that he hoped would "expose" the strictures the commercial theater machine imposed on playwrights, but the manuscript was never published.
The terms of Hopwood's will left a substantial portion of his estate to his alma mater, the University of Michigan for the establishment of the Avery Hopwood and Jule [his mother] Hopwood Creative Writing Awards. The bequest stipulated: "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." Famous Hopwood award winners include Robert Hayden, Marge Piercy, Arthur Miller, Betty Smith, Lawrence Kasdan, John Ciardi, Mary Gaitskill, Nancy Willard, Frank O’Hara, and Steve Hamilton.
Full article ▸