The Curse of the Misbegotten

Finalist, National Book Awards 1960 for Nonfiction

The Curse of the Misbegotten book cover

Ballantine Books
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Croswell Bowen

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Dissension, suicide, unhappy death-themes, recurring in the brilliant plays of Eugene O’Neill-had their roots in the personal lives of the playwright and his family. In this well-documented biography of the Great dramatist, Croswell Bowen brings to light new material and analyzes old personal tragedies as he probes the strange curse that seems to have haunted the O’Neills. From Bound East for Cardiff, which marked the birth of modern American drama in 1916, to the dark world of Long Day’s Journey into Night, there were few happy endings-and none for the O’Neill family. O’Neill’s mother used drugs. His a famous actor of another era frustrated his own hopes of artistic greatness by playing the same romantic role, that of the Count of Monte Cristo, thousands of times for the financial reward it brought him. A brother, Jamie, became an alcoholic. All three died within two years of one another. These deaths, together with great feelings of insecurity, drove the sensitive young O’Neill to an abiding preoccupation with the darker aspects of human relations. In The Curse of the Misbegotten, Mr. Bowen traces the extraordinary personal tragedies that were to leave scars on O’Neill and profoundly influence his work. Two of his three marriages ended in divorce. One of his sons, a brilliant scholar, committed suicide. Another was a drug addict and lives on today, broken in health and spirit and withdrawn from all creative activity. O’Neill’s daughter, Oona, beautiful and talented, was completely estranged from her father after her marriage to Charlie Chaplin. Recipient of the Nobel Prize for literature and four times winner of a Pulitzer Prize for drama. The fascinating circumstances behind every play, the disasters, the loneliness and exile that accompanied his rise to fame-all this and much more is told here with compassion and in candid detail.