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Samson Raphaelson

Fiction Writer · Stage & Screen Artist
Born March 30, 1896, New York, New York
Died July 16, 1983, New York, New York

Samson Raphaelson was a leading playwright, screenwriter, and author of short fiction. He based his first play, The Jazz Singer (1925), on his short story 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). Dedicated also to education, Raphaelson taught playwrighting and wrote a textbook based on his experiences in the classroom.

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


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