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Albert Maltz Biography

(1908–85), Merry-Go-Round, Peace on Earth, Black Pit, Private Hicks

American dramatist and novelist, born in Brooklyn, New York, educated at Columbia University and Yale Drama School. At Yale Maltz attended George Pierce Baker's influential drama workshop where he befriended George Sklar; the friendship resulted in Sklar's collaboration with the writing of Maltz's influential early plays, Merry-Go-Round (1932) and Peace on Earth (1933). Maltz was quickly adopted by the American literary left which had come to prominence in the Depression years. The first play under his sole authorship, Black Pit (1935), with its tale of a coal miners' strike, is openly propagandistic and tendentious, as is Private Hicks (1936), with its fictionalized treatment of the breaking of a strike at the Electric Auto-Lite Company in Toledo, Ohio, in 1934. Maltz then turned to fiction with The Way Things Are (1938), a collection of short stories, and novels such as The Underground Stream (1940) and The Cross and the Arrow (1944). He achieved notoriety with his infamous article in the New Masses in 1946, ‘What Shall We Ask of Writers?’, a rejection of most contemporary American left-wing writing and of the ‘art as weapon’ theory that sustained it. His prominence on the left brought him further trouble when he was numbered among the ‘Hollywood Ten’ by the House Committee on Un-American Activities, cited for contempt, and subsequently blacklisted. His work for the cinema includes This Gun for Hire (1942), Destination Tokyo (1944), and Pride of the Marines (1945). See also Proletarian Literature in the USA.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Madras House to Harriet Martineau Biography