US playwright. He was associated with the Group Theater and was the most renowned of the social-protest dramatists of the Depression era. His plays include Waiting for Lefty (1935), about a taxi drivers' strike, Awake and Sing! (1935), Golden Boy (1937), and The Country Girl (1950).
He was one of the original acting members of the experimental Group Theater directed by Harold Clurman, Lee Strasberg, and Cheryl Crawford, which was committed to producing only native US dramas. A communist, through his writing for the Group Theater and other workers' theatre groups, he attacked the capitalist system and the spread of fascism in the 1930s USA.
Born in New York City, Odets came from an Eastern European, Jewish immigrant family. His best-known play, Waiting for Lefty, is based on the New York taxi drivers' strike of 1934, and the experimental, one-act play was a call to arms for labour unionism. Within a year of its first production Waiting For Lefty gained an international reputation and was performed in workers' theatres across the USA and Western Europe.
Awake and Sing!, a nostalgic family drama, became another popular success, followed by Golden Boy, the story of an Italian immigrant youth who ruins his musical talent (he is a violinist) when he becomes a boxer and injures his hands. Odets also wrote the anti-Nazi play Till the Day I Die (1935). In the late 1930s he went to Hollywood and became a successful film writer and director, though he continued to write plays.
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