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Samson Raphaelson, Pleasant Valley, Pennsylvania. Image courtesy of the University of Illinois Archives.

Samson Raphaelson was a leading playwright, screenwriter, and author of short fiction. He based his first play, The Jazz Singer (1925), on the short story he wrote about a wild young man, the scion of a conservative Jewish family of cantors, who becomes a jazz singer. The story deals with the weighty theme of assimilation. In 1927, Raphaelson adapted The Jazz Singer for the screen. The first talkie, the film, which starred Al Jolson, won a special Academy Award for its unique contribution to the film industry. Raphaelson's subsequent films, which he characterized as "sophisticated comedy," blended wry wit and stylish romance. Among his best were those directed by Ernst Lubitsch, including Trouble in Paradise (1932), The Merry Widow (1934), The Shop Around the Corner (1940), and Heaven Can Wait (1943). Showing his versatility, Raphaelson also wrote the classic Hitchcock thriller, Suspicion (1941).

During the 1930s and 1940s, when America groaned under the burdens of the Great Depression and World War II, Raphaelson made audiences laugh with his urbane humor. Raphaelson wrote these plays for live theater and the silver screen. Among his movies, the nine directed by Ernst Lubitsch were most successful, because this polished European director best realized the suave, sly humor of Raphaelson's scripts. The Shop Around the Corner, 1940, shows the collaboration of Raphaelson and Lubitsch at its best. It is the story of two young clerks in a gift shop in Budapest who squabble and compete with each other at work, but who are unknowingly falling in love as anonymous pen pals. The script, charmingly acted by Margaret Sullivan and James Stewart, lends depth and sensitivity to the leading characters. Produced on the eve of World War II, the film confronts the dark side of human nature, dealing with such themes as adultery, deceit, greed, poverty, loneliness, and suicidal despair. The film was well received in its day, winning an NBR acting award for Stewart, and it has aged well. The Shop Around the Corner, with its depth, wit, and charm, is a signature production of Samson Raphaelson.

Also dedicated to education, Raphaelson taught playwriting and wrote a textbook based on his experiences in the classroom.

Samson Raphaelson, Pleasant Valley, Pennsylvania. Image courtesy of the University of Illinois Archives.

Education & Community

Education and Training
A.B., University of Illinios, Champaign, Urbana, Illinois, 1917

Teachers and Influences
Ernst Lubitsch, director
Gertrude Lawrence, Lester Cole, and John Golden

Connection to Bucks County
Samson Raphaelson purchased Three Maples Farm in Pleasant Valley in 1943. For several years, he divided his time between Hollywood and Bucks County. Raphaelson was involved in the Bucks County Playhouse, which produced several of his plays. His play Skylark was performed there in 1941 and 1942, while Heaven Can Wait was staged in 1946. His play Accent on Youth, produced in 1952, starred a young Grace Kelly.

Colleagues and Affiliations
S.J. and Laura Perelman, Ruth and Augustus Goetz, Budd Schulberg
Raphaelson was active with the Bucks County Playhouse under Theron Bamberger as well as Mike Ellis. Several of his plays were staged at the Playhouse.


The Jazz Singer, 1925
Young Love
, 1928
The Magnificent Heel
The Wooden Slipper
, 1934
Accent on Youth
, 1934, Bucks County Playhouse, 1952
Accent on Youth and White Man
, 1935
1939, Bucks County Playhouse, 1941, 1942
The Perfect Marriage
, 1944
Hilda Crane
, 1950
The Peanut Bag,
unpublished, 1967

The Smiling Lieutenant
, 1931
One Hour With You
, 1932
Trouble In Paradise
, 1932
The Merry Widow
, 1934
The Little Shop Around The Corner
, 1940
, with Alfred Hitchcock, 1941
Heaven Can Wait,
Green Dolphin Street
, 1947
That Lady In Ermine
Broken Lullaby

The Human Nature of Playwriting, Macmillan, 1949

Awards & Appointments

Major Awards
Academy Award, The Jazz Singer, 1927
Academy Award Nomination, Smiling Lieutenant, Best Film, 1931
Best Film, One Hour With You, 1932
Best Film, Suspicion, 1941
Most Significant American Films, University of Southern California Performing Arts Council, The Jazz Singer, 1972
12th Most Significant American Film Ever Made, University of Southern California Performing Arts Council, The Jazz Singer, 1972
Alumni Achievement Award, University of Illinois, 1973

Teaching and Professional Appointments
English Instructor, University of Illinois, 1920
Visiting Professor of Creative Writing, University of Illinois, 1948
Adjunct Professor of Playwriting, Columbia University, New York, 1976-1983
Dramatists Guild
Screenwriters Guild
Authors Guild of Authors League of America

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