Howard Lindsay was an American playwright, producer, director, and actor. He notably performed on Broadway in Life With Father, but is most well known for his writing collaboration with Russel Crouse. The pair wrote the books for musicals by composers like Rodgers and Hammerstein, Cole Porter, and Irving Berlin, won the Tony Award for Best Musical for their work as book writers on The Sound of Music, and won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1946 for their play State of the Union.
Lindsay was born in Waterford, NY, on March 29, 1889. He attended Boston Latin School, and studied at Harvard for a year in 1908. After Rice left Harvard, he acted in touring productions with actress Margaret Anglin. This work provided Rice with a comprehensive theater background, and productively prefaced his Broadway debut in Billeted in 1917.
When Lindsay returned from serving in World War I, he continued acting and began directing on Broadway. His first original written work, Tommy, premiered on Broadway in 1927. The production succeeded and later received a film adaptation in 1930.
After successfully writing and directing on Broadway for many years, Lindsay had gained a positive reputation. In 1934, he was slated to write the book for a new Cole Porter musical about a shipwreck. It was intended to be titled Bon Voyage. However, when 137 people died in a burning cruise ship on the New Jersey coast, it would have been insensitive to produce Porter’s musical as written at the time. A mutual friend introduced Lindsay to Russel Crouse, who helped him adapt the script into what became Anything Goes. This project began the longtime writing partnership between Lindsay and Crouse for both plays and musicals on Broadway.
Lindsay and Crouse’s popularity (and bank accounts) dramatically increased due to their work on Life With Father. The pair wrote the play, and Lindsay starred in the original Broadway production alongside his wife, Dorothy Stickney. The show premiered in 1939 and ran for 3,224 performances over the span of seven years. As of 2019, Life With Father still holds the record for the longest-running play on Broadway. Lindsay and Crouse decided to become Broadway producers after Life With Father’s success, and owned the Hudson Theatre for many years. They produced plays by various playwrights at the Hudson, in addition to their own play State of the Union in 1945.
Lindsay continued to produce, write, and perform in Broadway plays and musicals during this time. As an actor, he notably performed as the King in the 1957 televised musical production of Cinderella, alongside his wife Dorothy who played the Queen. Lindsay and Crouse also enjoyed their success as book writers for The Sound of Music at this time, when they won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1960.
Crouse passed away in 1966, and Lindsay passed away on February 11, 1968 at the age of 79 after battling a long-term illness.