Meet the Playwright

N. Richard Nash


Nash was born Nathan Richard Nusbaum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania the only son and youngest child of S. L. Nusbaum, a bookbinder, and his wife Jenny (née Singer). He worked as a ten dollar per match boxer and graduated from South Philadelphia High School in 1930 before entering the University of Pennsylvania to study English and Philosophy.

His father, Sael, a bit of a dreamer, convinced a German newspaper to send him to the U.S. as a stringer to cover a famous actress of the time, Eleanor Duse.  Sael Nusbaum insisted on continuing to follow and report on her long after the newspaper had lost interest ... and fired him.  As a boy, Nathan was taken by his father to nightly meetings of local political groups where he would curl up under the table, listening to the barnstorming rhetoric of the activists of the time.  Sael died when Nathan was 16.

Nathan's mother, Jenny Nusbaum was a tough, resourceful woman who managed the family grocery store through the Depression, finding ways to feed neighbors and passersby when they were down on their luck.  Jenny didn't have much time or attention for Nate especially after his father's death.  While his older sisters were marrying or getting jobs, Nathan held to his dream of becoming a writer, earning prizes and acclaim - but not much money - in school and through writing opportunities as a young man.  He attributed some of his early courage and success to the care and protection, in the family, of his older sister, Mae, who was, in part, the model for the enduring character, Lizzie in his most famous work, The Rainmaker.

Nash created many screenplays for Hollywood and soon was also writing for the Broadway stage and what came to be referred to as the Golden Age of Television.  He was also called upon often by Broadway producers to serve as a play doctor, a secret consultant and often writer and editor of foundering plays readying for production.

Richard Nash continued to write for "Hollyvood," as Nash jokingly called it, where he worked with, among others, Samuel Goldwyn at Metro Goldwyn Mayer.  Nash had many stories about Goldwyn, including Goldwyn's now famous way of calling Nash after reading one his scripts to say, "Richard, it's perfect!  Now come and fix it."  Katherine Nash also recalled a warm relationship with Goldwyn who seated her at his right at one of his many big dinner parties.  At the time, Katherine was pregnant with her first child and unaccustomed to managing her bulk.  Apparently, she spilled a glass of wine directly into Goldwyn's lap.  Graciously, he did not budge, but all the neighboring dinner guests tossed her their napkins.

Over the course of his life, Nash wrote for the theater and the screen.  Later, Nash wrote fiction, and two of his novels found their ways to the New York Times bestsellers list: East, Wind Rain, and The Last Magic.

Nash died in Manhattan on 11 December 2000, aged 87.