“Charles Gordon MacArthur was an American playwright, screenwriter and 1935 winner of the Academy Award for Best Story.
MacArthur was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the sixth of seven children of stern evangelist William Telfer MacArthur and Georgiana Welsted MacArthur. He early developed a passion for reading. Declining to follow his father into ministry, he moved to the Midwest and soon became a successful reporter in Chicago, working for the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Daily News. MacArthur joined the United States Army for World War I, and served in France as a private assigned to Battery F, 149th Field Artillery, a unit of the 42nd Division. He recounted his wartime experience in 1919’s A Bug’s-Eye View of the War. After the war, he wrote several short stories, two of which, “Hang It All” (1921) and “Rope” (1923), were published in H. L. Mencken‘s The Smart Set magazine. Eventually he settled in New York City, where he turned to playwriting.
MacArthur is best known for his plays in collaboration with Ben Hecht, Ladies and Gentlemen (filmed as Perfect Strangers), Twentieth Century and the frequently filmed The Front Page, which was based in part on MacArthur’s experiences at the City News Bureau of Chicago. MacArthur also co-wrote, with Edward Sheldon, the play Lulu Belle, which was staged in 1926 by David Belasco.
His second marriage (his first, from 1920-22, was to Carol Frink) was to the stage and screen actress Helen Hayes, from 1928 until his death. They lived in Nyack, New York. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Mary, who died of polio in 1949 at the age of 19. The shock of her death hastened MacArthur’s own, according to those who knew him.