chapter  31
Clifford Odets
Pages 8

Every once in a while an artist appears who articulates the aspirations, longings, hopes, and fears of an era. Clifford Odets scintillated across the dark sky of America's depression theater like a brilliant comet. Just as quickly as he gained ascendancy, he plummeted and left not a bright streak behind to mark his passage but a bitter scar of treachery. This is the popular image of Odets immortalized in the obituaries, gossip columns, and movie sections of daily newspapers. Clifford Odets in an unmatched series of plays in 1935 made artistic sense of the inchoate dreams of the American working class. He dared to rely on his experience of the quirky turns of Yiddish speech and character and brought alive, onstage for the first time, the rich, zesty language of the ethnic neighborhoods of New York City and Philadelphia. He even seemed for a short time to give hope to the Communist party, which had been searching for a proletarian writer. He took up the job that Walt Whitman began in American lettersto be an American Bard.