Search transcripts:    Advanced Search
Notable New     Yorkers
Select     Notable New Yorker

Bennett CerfBennett Cerf
Photo Gallery

Session:         Page of 1029

this young unknown, Moss, with his play and this message from Jed Harris. George blew up, as Harris knew that he would, and ordered poor Moss out. When he saw the look of absolute, abject despondency on Moss‘face, however, he suddenly realized that Moss had had nothing to do with this and that he had been misled by this bastard Harris, who thought this dirty trick was very funny. So Kaufman relented and said, “Come on. I'll read your play.”

A couple of days later he called Moss Hart and said, “There are some terribly funny things in this play, but I am awfully busy and I don't know when I could get to it. But I took the liberty of showing your script to Mr. Irving Berlin, and he's crazy about it! He wants to do this as a musical with you.” This to a starving young man...Irving Berlin, who then was at the peak of his fame.

Do you know what Moss Hart did? He pulled the script away from George Kaufman and said, “You must be crazy. This is going to be a straight comedy. I don't want Irving Berlin or anybody else writing music for this show.” George looked at him with absolute amazement, as a veteran of the theater, and he said, “You're something new in my life--a kid who has a chance to do a play with the great Irving Berlin and says that he won't have anything to do with him, doesn't even want to meet him.” He burst out laughing. He said, “Damn it all. I guess that I'll have to do it with you myself.”

So Moss Hart and George Kaufman began collaborating on the play, which needed a lot of work, and produced Once

© 2006 Columbia University Libraries | Oral History Research Office | Rights and Permissions | Help