Jerome Lawrence
Robert E. Lee

Jerome Lawrence (1915-2004) and Robert E. Lee (1918-1994), acclaimed playwrights and co-authors of Inherit the Wind, Auntie Mame, The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail and other successful plays. Lawrence, born Jerome Lawrence Schwartz, was a 1938 graduate of Glenville High School, where he worked on the school newspaper The Glenville Torch alongside a young Jerry Siegel (the creator of Superman), Seymour Heller (Liberace’s future manager) and Wilson Hirschfeld, who would become managing editor of The Cleveland Plain Dealer. While a student at Ohio State University, Lawrence was initated into the Nu chapter of the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity, a historically Jewish social fraternity

            Elyria-born Robert Edwin Lee, who attended, at various times, Ohio Wesleyan University and Western Reserve University in  Cleveland, was married for 46 years to actress Janet Waldo, the voice of Judy Jetson and many other familiar cartoon characters. He met Lawrence in 1942 in New York, where Lee had taken a job with an ad agency.

As army pals, they were to play an important role in creating Armed Forces Radio. They went on to become the most prolific writing partnership in radio, with such long-running series as Favorite Story among others.

In 1948, their first Broadway play, Look, Ma, I’m Dancin’, was directed by George Abbott and choreographed by Jerome Robbins. Lawrence and Lee won acclaim for 1955’s Inherit the Wind (based on the infamous Scopes “monkey” Trial), which remains one of the most-produced plays in the American theater, and then for their screenplay for the successful movie version starring Spencer Tracy. Auntie Mame followed in 1957.

The wildly successful The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail (1970) was premiered at Lawrence’s alma mater, Ohio State University. First Monday in October (1978) concerned the first woman on the Supreme Court. Indeed, it has been noted that many of Lawrence and Lee’s works “vividly display the pair’s interest in . . . freedom and their respect for those who struggle against tyranny, whether on a small or grand scale.” (AllMusic)

Together the duo would create some 39 works. In collaboration with James Hilton (the author of Goodbye, Mr. Chips and Random Harvest), they adapted Hilton’s 1933 novel Lost Horizon into the 1956 musical Shangri-La, and, with composer Jerry Herman, turned their own play Auntie Mame into the hit musical Mame (1967), which won a Tony Award for its star Angela Lansbury.

Used with permission of Lucy V. Lee

Used with permission of Lucy V. Lee

Used with permission of Lucy V. Lee



 In 1965, Lawrence and Lee founded the American Playwrights’ Theatre, a plan to bypass the commerciality of the Broadway stage, which foreshadowed the professional regional theater movement. They were twice recipients of the George Foster Peabody Award for Distinguished Achievement in Broadcasting (1949 and 1952), a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Theatre Association (1979), and the Writers Guild of America Valentine Davies Award (1984). In 1990 they were inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame and named Fellows of American Theatre at Washington DC’s Kennedy Center.