Brooks Atkinson

Brooks Atkinson

American theater critic
Date of Birth: 28.11.1894
Country: USA

Biography of Brooks Atkinson

Brooks Atkinson was an American theater critic who worked for 'The New York Times' from 1925 to 1960. He was born in Melrose, Massachusetts and as a child, he started his own newspaper using a real printing press, showing his early interest in journalism. In 1917, Atkinson graduated from Harvard University and began working for 'The Springfield Daily News' and later the 'Boston Evening Transcript'. In 1925, he tried his hand at theater criticism for the first time.

Brooks Atkinson

Atkinson quickly gained fame for his enthusiasm for innovative theatrical productions, including being one of the first to review the works of Eugene O'Neill. He was known for his interest in all types of theatrical performances, including non-Broadway shows, as well as his erudition and sarcasm. He became so influential that one of his reviews could make or break a new production, as seen in the case of Lawrence Riley's 'Return Engagement', which closed after only eight performances due to Atkinson's negative review, despite Riley's previous successful play, 'Personal Appearance', running for over 500 shows on Broadway.

During World War II, Atkinson attempted to enlist as a volunteer but was rejected. However, he later became a war correspondent and was sent by 'The New York Times' to cover events in China after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. While in China, Atkinson wrote about the war with Japan and had the opportunity to meet Mao Zedong, the leader of the Chinese Communist Party. This meeting resulted in a series of positive articles about the party and its war against the nationalist regime of Chiang Kai-Shek. Atkinson frequently emphasized that the Chinese Communists were closer to democracy than to totalitarianism.

After the war, Atkinson briefly returned to New York before being assigned as a press correspondent in Moscow. His reports from Moscow in 1947 earned him a Pulitzer Prize. Upon his return from the Soviet Union, Atkinson resumed his work in the theater department until his retirement in 1960. He is often credited with playing a crucial role in popularizing non-Broadway shows, which became an important part of the theater scene in the 1950s. Many renowned theater figures have acknowledged Atkinson's significant contribution to their professional development.

In 1960, the Mansfield Theatre was renamed in honor of Brooks Atkinson. He passed away on January 14, 1984, at the age of 89. In his obituary, 'The New York Times' referred to Atkinson as "the foremost critic of his time."