Philip Barry

For The Philadelphia story

The American playwright Philip Barry (1896-1949) was one of the most successful practitioners of the now lost art of writing high comedy. From the nineteen twenties through the forties, he turned out hit comedies including Holiday, The animal kingdom, Paris bound, The Philadelphia story — and a number of serious plays that were perhaps of greater importance to him — among them, White wings, Hotel universe and Here come the clowns.

Philip Barry was born in Rochester, New York, and both of his parents were immigrants from Ireland. Philip did not experience the elite domain where many of his plays were set until a twist of fate recounted in his play, The youngest, allowed him to attend Yale University. It may be that his status as an outsider, combined with his sharp eye, comic wit and adaptable charm, enabled Barry to be both participant and critic in his favored milieu (among the rich) and deepened his relationships to such friends such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, John O’Hara and Gerald Murphy, with whom he spent many summers in the south of France. The paradox faced by Murphy the painter and Barry the writer was, according to New Yorker critic Brendan Gill, "that good fortune, already bestowed, could yet required to be earned, and not once but many times." Mr. Gill continues:

"Barry was partial to palaces and to the people who dwelt in them, especially if the palaces were small and sunny and the people smiling. He was still more partial to people who might have lived in palaces and who chose instead to live in pavilions and pleasances, accepting with light hearts the responsibilities that their good luck imposed on them. Barry liked to be around lucky people and he set lofty standards of conduct for them. He wished them to be every bit as disciplined in their happiness as unlucky people are obliged to be in their misery. For both sorts of people the
goals must be the same — grace of the body, grace of the spirit."