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HARRY WAGSTAFF GRIBBLE
The prominent playwright, director, actor, and screenwriter Harry Wagstaff Gribble (1896-1981) was born in the English county of Kent to a family who frowned upon the theater. Throughout his first job as an accountant, and a brief stint at Cambridge, Gribble nursed secret ambitions for the stage, which he finally pursued by joining a Liverpool repertoire company. After touring Africa with a fellow actor in 1913 and 1914, and being rejected from the army on his return home, Gribble moved to New York City in December of 1914. Though his first few months there were rocky, he eventually found a job touring with the actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell in Pygmalion and The Second Mrs. Tanqueray. The difficulties of dealing with a demanding performer furnished material for his first full-length play several years later, The Outrageous Mrs. Palmer (1920). But Gribble was by no means idle in the intervening years: his enlistment with the 27th Division of the U.S. Army, oddly enough, created an outlet for his considerable talents. After just nine months in camp he directed fellow soldiers and starred in the Broadway musical production You Know Me, Al! (1918). Known as the Army’s most successful play, it grossed $50,000 in four weeks. Gribble subsequently enjoyed a long Broadway career, writing several of his own plays and directing close to thirty. His skills translated well into film; his screenplay credits include Our Betters (1933), Stella Dallas (1937), and A Bill of Divorcement (1932), Katherine Hepburn’s screen debut. Gribble’s play All Gummed Up is included in Frank Shay’s Twenty Contemporary One-Act Plays (1922), alongside works by Floyd Dell, Christopher Morley, Susan Glaspell and George Cram Cook, Eugene O’Neill, and Lawrence Lagner.
The cover and opening pages of Harry Wagstaff Gribble's play Beat Your Child, 1928