Today is the 100th birthday of my hero in directing, Joshua Logan.

Joshua Lockwood Logan III (October 5, 1908July 12, 1988) was an American stage and film director and writer.

Logan was born in Texarkana, Texas. His father died when Logan was only three, and his mother remarried six years later. He was reared in Shreveport, the seat of Caddo Parish and the largest city in north Louisiana. He attended Culver Military Academy in Culver, Indiana, where his stepfather served on the staff. At school, he experienced his first drama class and felt at home. After his high school graduation he attended Princeton University.

At Princeton, he was involved with the intercollegiate summer stock company, known as the University Players, with fellow student James Stewart and also non-student Henry Fonda. In fact, James Stewart was an architect major when Logan recruited him for a bit part in a production he was directing. Stewart became hooked on acting and the two remained life time friends. During his senior year he served as president of the Princeton Triangle Club. Before his graduation he won a scholarship to study in Moscow with Constantin Stanislavsky, and Logan left school without a diploma.

Logan began his Broadway career as an actor in Carry Nation in 1932. He then spent time in London, where he “stag[ed] two productions … and direct[ed] a touring revival of Camille“. He also worked as an assistant stage manager. After a short time in Hollywood, Logan directed On Borrowed Time on Broadway. The play ran for a year, but his first major success came in 1938, when he directed I Married an Angel. Over the next few years he directed Knickerbocker Holiday, Morning’s at Seven, Charlie’s Aunt, and By Jupiter.

In 1942 Logan was drafted by the US Army. During his service in World War II, he acted as a public-relations and intelligence officer. When the war concluded he was discharged as a captain, and returned to Broadway. He married his second wife, actress Nedda Harrigan (daughter of Ned Harrigan), in 1945; Logan’s previous marriage, to actress Barbara O’Neil, who is most remembered as Scarlett O’Hara’s mother in GONE WITH THE WIND, a colleague of his at the University Players in the 1930s, had ended in divorce.

After the war, Logan directed the Broadway productions Annie Get Your Gun, John Loves Mary, Mister Roberts, South Pacific, and Fanny. He shared the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for Drama with Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II for co-writing South Pacific. The show also earned him a Tony Award for Best Director. Despite his contributions to the musical, in their review the New York Times originally omitted his name as co-author, and the Pulitzer Prize committee initially awarded the prize to only Rodgers and Hammerstein. Although the mistakes were corrected, in his autobiography Logan wrote “I knew then why people fight so hard to have their names in proper type. It’s not just ego or ‘the principle of the thing,’ it’s possibly another job or a better salary. It’s reassurance. My name had been so minimized that I lived through years of having people praise ‘South Pacific’ in my presence without knowing I had had anything to do with.”

Logan cowrote, coproduced, and directed the 1952 musical Wish You Were Here. After the show was not initially successful, Logan quickly wrote 54 new pages of material, and by the ninth performance the show looked new. In its fourth week of release, the show sold out, and continued to offer sell-out performance for the next two years.

When director John Ford became sick, Logan reluctantly returned to Hollywood to complete the filming of Mister Roberts (1955). Logan’s other hit films included Picnic (1955), Bus Stop (1956), Sayonara (1957), and South Pacific (1958). He was nominated for an Academy Award for Directing for Picnic and Sayonara.

His later Broadway musicals All-American (1962) and Mr. President (1962) and the films of Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot (1967), and Paint Your Wagon (1969) were less acclaimed. Logan’s 1976 autobiography Josh: My Up-and-Down, In-and-Out Life talks frankly about his bipolar disorder. He appeared with his wife in the 1977 nightclub revue Musical Moments, featuring Logan’s most popular Broadway numbers. He published Movie Stars, Real People, and Me in 1978. From 1983-1986, he taught theater at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. He was also responsible for bringing Carol Channing to Broadway in Lend an Ear!.

At his best, Logan’s direction was distinguished by a deep insight into character and a remarkable fluidity, the latter especially evident in his staging of often cumbersome musicals. He was sometimes criticized in his later shows and films, however, for too heavy a touch. Autobiography: Josh: My Up and Down, In and Out Life, 1976.

Logan died in 1988 in New York of supranuclear palsy.

JOSHUA LOGAN’S OBITUARY…

Published: July 13, 1988

Joshua L. Logan, the director of some of Broadway’s most enduring and prestigious hits, among them ”South Pacific,” which won the Pulitzer Prize, and ”Mister Roberts,” died yesterday afternoon at his Manhattan home. He was 79 years old and had suffered for many years from supranuclear palsy, a debilitating disease.

Joshua L. Logan, the director of some of Broadway’s most enduring and prestigious hits, among them ”South Pacific,” which won the Pulitzer Prize, and ”Mister Roberts,” died yesterday afternoon at his Manhattan home. He was 79 years old and had suffered for many years from supranuclear palsy, a debilitating disease.

Mr. Logan frequently served as co-author and producer or co-producer as well as director of plays. He was also that uncommon phenomenon, the theater director who was also successful in films – with such hits as ”Sayonara” and ”Paint Your Wagon.”

While he attempted the classics only once, with ”The Wisteria Trees” – his own version of Chekhov’s ”Cherry Orchard” – and did not seek out innovative or avant-garde drama, he was a consummate theatrical craftsman, possessing great emotional force that he was able to transmit to the actors he directed.

His long string of successes really began with the musical ”I Married an Angel” (1938) and included ”Knickerbocker Holiday” with Walter Huston the same year, ”Annie Get Your Gun” (1946), ”Picnic” (1953), ”Fanny” (1954), ”The World of Suzie Wong” (1958) and the movie of ”Camelot” (1967). Some Failures, Too

He did have his failures, notably ”Miss Moffat,” a musical version of ”The Corn Is Green,” starring Bette Davis. It closed in Philadelphia before reaching New York, when Miss Davis withdrew from the cast. Another was ”Rip van Winkle,” a 1976 musical for which he wrote both book and lyrics as well as provided the direction. It closed before its New York opening. ”Ensign Pulver,” a 1964 film, was not a success, nor was ”Look to the Lilies,” in 1970.

Mr. Logan was notable for his candor in discussing manic depression, the mental illness in which manic elation alternates with profound depression. He had the condition for many years before it was discovered that it could be controlled by the drug lithium carbonate.

It had been rumored for years that Mr. Logan’s ups and downs of mood were occasionally excessive, and that he required hospitalization for extended periods, which in fact he did on two occasions.

After January 1969, when he learned of lithium and began taking it as a preventive, Mr. Logan decided, he wrote in ”Movie Stars, Real People, and Me,” that he would talk about it. Telling What He Knew ”I had been ignorant all my life about such things,” he said, ”at least I could tell others so they would never be as ignorant as I was.”

He took part in medical seminars, appeared on television and talked and wrote about his illness. But he also made it clear that he felt its manic phase contributed to his creativity: ”Without my illness, active or dormant, I’m sure I would have lived only half of the life I’ve lived and that would be as unexciting as a safe and sane Fourth of July. I would have missed the sharpest, the rarest and, yes, the sweetest moments of my existence.”

Joshua Lockwood Logan was born Oct. 5, 1908, in Texarkana, Tex. His father died when he was 3 years old; six years later, his mother married an Army officer who was later on the staff of the Culver (Ind.) Military Academy.

It was when he was 8 years old that Joshua saw his first professional play, ”Everywoman,” in Shreveport, La. It was, he wrote in his autobiography, ”Josh,” a case of ”love at first sight.” It was during his five years at Culver, Mr. Logan wrote, that he entered his first dramatics class and ”felt my life swerve and suddenly steady itself.” Studied With Stanislavsky.

He chose to go to Princeton because of its Triangle Club show that toured the country, and he entered the university in 1927. The previous year, he recalled, he saw his first Broadway play, ”What Price Glory?”

TRIVIA…

  • Won seven Tony Awards:
  • two in 1948 for “Mister Roberts,” with collaborator Thomas Heggen as Best Authors and as writers of the Best Play winner
  • four in 1950 for “South Pacific,” as Best Director, Best Authors (Musical) with Oscar Hammerstein II, Best Producers (Musical) wirh Richard Rodgers, Hammerstein and Leland Hayward, and as writers, along with Rodgers and Hammerstein, of the Best Musical winner
  • and one in 1953, as Best Director for William Inge‘s “Picnic.”
  • He was also Tony-nominated on two other occasions:
  • in 1959, as co-producer of Best Play nominee “Epitaph for George Dillon,”
  • in 1962 as Best Director (Musical) for “All American.”