DuBose Heyward

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DuBose Heyward (August 31, 1885-June 16, 1940) is best-known as the author of the 1924 novel Porgy, which became the foundation of George Gershwin's opera Porgy and Bess. A Charleston insurance and real-estate salesman with a long-standing and serious interest in literature, he became financially independent and abandoned his business to devote full time to writing.

Langston Hughes called Heyward one who saw, "with his white eyes, wonderful, poetic qualities in the inhabitants of Catfish Row that makes them come alive." Biographer James M. Hutchisson characterizes Porgy as "the first major southern novel to portray blacks without condescension" and states that the libretto to Porgy and Bess was largely Heyward's work. Others, however, have noted that the characters in Porgy, though viewed sympathetically, are still viewed for the most part as stereotypes.

Stephen Sondheim's introduction to DUBOSE HEYWARD in the book, "Invisible Giants-Fifty Americans Who Shaped the Nation But Missed the History Books."

"DuBose Heyward has gone largely unrecognized as the author of the finest set of lyrics in the history of the American musical theater - namely, those of Porgy and Bess. There are two reasons for this, and they are connected. First, he was primarily a poet and novelist, and his only song lyrics were those that he wrote for Porgy. Second, some of them were written in collaboration with Ira Gershwin, a full-time lyricist, whose reputation in the musical theater was firmly established before the opera was written. But most of the lyrics in Porgy - and all of the distinguished ones - are by Heyward. I admire his theater songs for their deeply felt poetic style and their insight into character. It's a pity he didn't write any others. His work is sung, but he is unsung."

Heyward wrote another novel set in Catfish Row, Mamba's Daughters, and wrote the screenplays to the 1933 screen adaptation of Eugene O'Neill's The Emperor Jones and the 1934 screen adaptation of Pearl Buck's The Good Earth.

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