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While on board a trans-Atlantic ocean liner, Augustus, or Gus, Goetz met the well-known theatrical producer Philip Goodman and his daughter, Ruth. Ruth and Gus soon became inseparable and were married on October 11, 1932. The Goetzes collaborated as playwrights and screenwriters for 27 years. Among their most successful works was The Heiress, a stage adaptation of Henry James' novel Washington Square, which debuted on Broadway in 1947. After the play's long run on Broadway, the Goetzes wrote the Academy Award winning film adaptation starring Olivia De Havilland and Montgomery Clift (1949). The play was revived on Broadway in 1995 and was once again a hit, receiving four Tony Awards, including "Best Revival." The Goetzes adapted two more novels for the stage. The Immoralist (1954), based on a novel by Andre Gide, was notable for its open discussion of homosexuality. James Dean made his stage debut in this production. The Hidden River (1957), adapted from a novel by Storm Jameson, dealt with the search for a French traitor. The Goetzes also wrote a number of screenplays, such as Carrie (1952) and Trapeze (1956). Stage Struck (1957), the Goetzes' last screenplay, was released after the death of Augustus Goetz in 1957.
Image courtesy of the Billy Rose Theater Collection, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, the Astor, Lennox, and Tilden Foundation.
Education and Training
University of Pennsylvania
Connection to Bucks County
Ruth and Augustus Goetz bought a small farm house in Keller's Church, Bedminster Township, Pennsylvania, in 1936 in order to devote their time solely to writing. They were among the first playwrights to settle in Bucks County's "genius belt." Ruth left the farm after Augustus died. He was buried at Keller's Church in 1957. The farm was on the land that later became Lake Nockamixon. The Heiress, starring John Carradine, Margaret Phillips, Oliver Thorndike, Margaret Mullen, Sara Seegar and Grace Kelly, was performed at the Bucks County Playhouse in 1949.
Colleagues and Affiliations
The Goetzes were close friends of Laura and S.J. Perelman who regularly corresponded with them from Hollywood when the Perelmans needed help with their farm in Bucks County. They were neighbors of Samson Raphaelson and were very close to Beatrice and George S. Kaufman, who directed and revised one of their first plays, Franklin Street (1940). A widowed Kaufman met his second wife, Leueen MacGrath, at a party at the Goetzes' home in New York. They also knew Nathanael West, Jerome Chodorov and Moss Hart, as well as Dorothy Parker and Alan Campbell. Ruth Goetz remained close to both Kaufman and Perelman during their last years of life.
The Heiress, 1949, starring Olivia De Havilland and Montgomery Clift, Produced and directed by William Wyler (Academy Award winner)
Stage Struck, 1958
Their first play was never produced but took two years to write.
Franklin Street, 1940
One Man Show, 1945
The Heiress, 1947, starring Wendy Hiller and Basil Rathbone, revived on Broadway, 1994
The Heiress, London, England, starring Ralph Richardson, Peggy Ashcroft and directed by John Gielgud
The Immoralist, 1954
The Hidden River, 1957
Tony Awards: The Heiress (1947-1948), Best Dramatic Actor (Basil Rathbone), and Best Costumes (Mary Percy Schenk), 1948; The Heiress (1994-1995), Best Revival of a Play (producers Andre Bishop and Bernard Gersten). Also for Best Director (Gerald Gutierrez), Best Actress (Cherry Jones), and Best Featured Actress (Frances Sternhagen)
Academy Awards: The Heiress (1949), won four Academy Awards for Best Actress (Olivia De Havilland), Art Direction-Set Decoration, Music (Aaron Copland), and Costume Design
The Goetzes' most popular play, The Heiress, was inspired by Henry James' novel, Washington Square, which was written in 1881. The play deals with the universal themes of love and betrayal, good versus evil, innocence versus experience, and greed. The main character, Catherine, is the only heir to the estate of her unloving father, who threatens to disinherit her if she marries her suitor. On the eve of their marriage he deserts her. Years later, the suitor returns to a heartbroken but wiser Catherine.
Ruth and Augustus Goetz
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