16 Facts About Brooks Atkinson


Justin Brooks Atkinson was an American theatre critic.


Brooks Atkinson worked for The New York Times from 1922 to 1960.


Brooks Atkinson insisted on leaving the drama desk during World War II to report on the war; he received the Pulitzer Prize in 1947 for his work as the Moscow correspondent for the Times.


Brooks Atkinson returned to the theater beat in the late 1940s, until his retirement in 1960.


Brooks Atkinson attended Harvard University, where he began writing for the Boston Herald.


Brooks Atkinson graduated from Harvard in 1917, and worked at the Springfield Daily News and the Boston Evening Transcript, where he was assistant to the drama critic.


Brooks Atkinson, stepping into the role of major progressive thinker and writer of his time, was a strong supporter of the WPA and particularly the new Federal Theatre Project, Roosevelt's attempt, in the midst of the unemployment and poverty of the Great Depression, to extend welfare support to out of work theater professionals, and to create a theater responsive to the American public in range and diversity.

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Orson Welles

Brooks Atkinson travelled extensively to be able to see productions such as the Harlem "Voodoo Macbeth" directed by the 21-year-old Orson Welles, the collaborative historical play "Lost Colony," staged on Roanoke Island in North Carolina, and openings of interesting plays all up and down the east coast.


Brooks Atkinson's reviews were reputed to have the power to make or break a new stage production: for example, his panning in 1940 of Lawrence Riley's Return Engagement led to that comedy's closure after only eight performances, despite the success of Riley's previous comedy, Personal Appearance, which had lasted for over 500 performances on Broadway.


Brooks Atkinson had already been dubbed "the conscience of the theater," due to his openness to earnest experimental theater, his sense of duty toward supporting theater that addressed important moral and social issues of the day, and his firm conviction that theater could educate and foment serious public debate; but he was often not comfortable with the influence he wielded over the Broadway box office.


Brooks Atkinson requested a reassignment to war coverage, and The New York Times sent him to the front lines as a war correspondent in China, where he covered the second Sino-Japanese war until 1945.


Brooks Atkinson is given much credit for the growth of Off-Broadway into a major theatrical force in the 1950s, and has been cited by many influential people in the theatre as crucial to their careers.


Brooks Atkinson was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1960.


Brooks Atkinson came briefly out of retirement in 1965 to write a favorable review of Man of La Mancha; his review was printed on the first page of the show's original souvenir program.


Brooks Atkinson died on January 14,1984, at Crestwood Hospital in Huntsville, Alabama.


Brooks Atkinson had moved to Huntsville from his farm in Durham, New York, in 1981 to be closer to his family.