William Inge was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American playwright and novelist. His plays are some of the most prominent works of 20th century American theatre. His plays reflect his background, often depicting small-town life and frustrated relationships. For this, he was known as the "Playwright of the Midwest."
William Motter Inge was born May 3, 1913 in Independence, Kansas. He was his parents' fifth child. In 1935, he graduated from the University of Kansas with his degree in Speech and Drama. He was offered a scholarship to study at the George Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville, Tennessee, but later dropped out. He returned to Kansas where he worked as a laborer for the state highway, a news announcer in Wichita, and an English and drama teacher at Cherokee County Community High School. In 1938, he returned to Peabody to complete his Master's degree. Upon graduating, he relocated to Columbia, Missouri, to teach at Stephens College until 1943. After, he began working as a drama critic for the St. Louise Star Times.
He was encouraged in his playwriting by Tennessee Williams. His first play, Farther Off From Heaven, was staged in Dallas, Texas in 1947. His following play, Come Back, Little Sheba brought his work to national attention. It premiered on Broadway in 1950, earning Tony Awards for its' two lead actors, Shirley Booth and Sidney Blackmer. Come Back, Little Sheba was adapted into a feature film in 1952, earning a Golden Globe and Academy Award for Booth.
His next play, Picnic, earned Inge a Pulitzer Prize. It ran on Broadway from February, 1953 to April, 1954, and was adapted into a successful motion picture, garnering two Academy Awards. His 1955 play, Bus Stop, is one of his most famous works, also adapted into a film and starring Marilyn Monroe.
Inge branched into writing for film and television. His screenplay for Splendor in the Grass won him an Academy Award in 1961. He also wrote two novels, Good Luck, Miss Wyckoff (1970) and My Son Is a Splendid Driver (1971).
By the early 1970s, Inge had relocated to Los Angeles, California. His later works were finding little success or critical acclaim, and, as a result, he fell into a deep depression. William Inge tragically passed away of suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning on June 10, 1973 at the age of 60. He is buried in his hometown of Independence, Kansas.
His legacy as one of the greatest modern American playwrights lives on, and his works are some of the most produced in the country.