Russel Crouse was an American playwright, producer, and actor, and is most well known for his writing collaboration with Howard Lindsay. 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.
Crouse was born in Findlay, Ohio, on February 2, 1893. He began working as a reporter for the Cincinnati Tribune at the age of 17. After serving in World War 1, he traveled as a reporter for the Kansas City Star, and eventually established himself in New York. In New York, Crouse wrote for the New York Post and made his Broadway debut in Gentlemen of the Press. However, Crouse fully directed his focus toward theatrical writing by 1931. At this time, Crouse collaborated with Oscar Hammerstein on The Gang’s All Here, but found his first Broadway success by co-writing the musical comedy Hold Your Horses with Corey Ford.
In 1934, Crouse’s soon-to-be writing partner Howard Lindsay 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 the pair, and Crouse helped Lindsay adapt his 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. 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.
Crouse continued to produce and write Broadway plays and musicals. Lindsay and Crouse mostly 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 was married to Alison Smith until her death in 1943. Crouse married his second wife, Anna Erskine, in 1945, and had two children with her. His daughter, actress Lindsay Ann Crouse, was named after Howard Lindsay.
Crouse lost his battle with pneumonia at the age of 73. He died on April 3, 1966 at St. Luke’s Hospital in New York.