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Thornton Wilder

Highest Rated: 100% Our Town (2003)

Lowest Rated: 86% Our Town (1940)

Birthday: Apr 17, 1897

Birthplace: Not Available

Born Thornton Niven Wilder in Madison, WI, in 1897, he was the son of Amos Parker Wilder, a newspaper editor and diplomat, and the former Isabella Thornton Niven. He was raised in Madison in his early years, but when he was nine, his father received an appointment as consul general in Hong Kong, where the family resided for part of that year. His mother, however, was wary of the political violence sweeping China and she and the children returned to America; the family went back to Hong Kong in 1910, following the cessation of the turmoil. He was educated at the Kaiser Wilhelm School and the China Inland Missionary Boys' School, before returning with his family to America in 1913, at the end of his father's appointment. Wilder spent the remainder of his youth in Berkeley, CA, attending Berkeley High School, where his interests in theater and playwriting first manifested themselves. He studied next at Oberlin College and Yale University, earning his B.A. in 1920, along with accolades from his professors for his potential as a writer. Over the next several years, Wilder taught, traveled a bit, and wrote his first novel, The Cabala, inspired by his summer in Rome. Published in 1926, the book was reviewed enthusiastically, though it was hardly a bestseller. In 1927, he published his second novel, The Bridge of San Luis Rey. The book, a story set in the 18th century and dealing with issues of faith, tolerance, and love, all confronted through the prism of a seemingly random instance of cruel fate, was received with universal enthusiasm by critics and the public, winning the Pulitzer Prize and instantly earning a permanent place on high school and college reading lists for decades to come. A film adaptation followed in 1929, produced by MGM, and the story was adapted to the screen in 1944, from independent producer Benedict Bogeaus and director Rowland V. Lee. The earlier film was an awkward partial talkie, done during the transition to sound, while the 1940s version is usually regarded as an unsatisfactory film in most respects and has been seen very seldom on television since the 1960s. In 1928, Wilder published a new book, The Angel That Troubled the Waters and Other Plays, a volume of writing dating back to his days at Oberlin, which was more of a publication of a sketchbook of ideas than a representation of his current work. His 1930 novel The Woman of Andros, set in ancient Greece and dealing with the conflict between pagan and Christian morality, was reviewed unevenly, declared a masterpiece by some critics and a failure by others.It was five years before Wilder published another novel, but that book, Heaven's My Destination, was a deep and moving reflection of his vision of life and the best ways to live it in Depression-era America, told from the point of view of an itinerant salesman of religious books and the people he meets and interacts with. In 1938, Wilder published the work for which he is best known, the play Our Town. Set in Grovers Corners -- which was modeled after Petersborough, NH, which he had visited in 1924 -- the play told of the cycles of life, small and large, intimate and cosmic, from the point-of-view of two families, the Gibbs and the Webbs. The play was Wilder's second great success, winning a Pulitzer Prize and immediately getting taken up by companies all over the country. The film rights were purchased by producer Sol Lesser, who brought the play to the screen in 1940 under the direction of Sam Wood. It was criticized for altering the ending, making Emily's death a dream, a change that Wilder himself had insisted upon, in close consultation with the producer, because of his recognition that a movie of Our Town was fundamentally different from a play. The movie, which starred Martha Scott and a young William Holden, and featured production design by William Cameron Menzies and a widely acclaimed score by Aaron Copland, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, and has continued to be highl

Highest Rated Movies



100% Our Town Screenwriter 2003
No Score Yet The Skin of Our Teeth Screenwriter 1983
100% Shadow of a Doubt Screenwriter 1943
86% Our Town Screenwriter 1940
No Score Yet We Live Again Screenwriter 1934


No Score Yet American Playhouse
Screenwriter 1983


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