“Act One,” Moss Hart’s inspirational memoir, is the story of the son of Jewish immigrants who found and successfully pursued his passion for theater despite — or because of — his family’s impoverished circumstances.
Hart’s muse was his Aunt Kate, an eccentric woman who encouraged his love of theater, where he found “a refuge for an unhappy child … a scrawny, poor kid with bad teeth, a funny name and a mother who was a drudge.”
In addition to abject poverty, Hart had a difficult relationship with both of his parents, particularly his father, who forced him to quit school after the eighth grade to work and contribute to the family coffers.
Still, he managed to become one of the 20th century’s greatest playwrights (“You Can’t Take It With You,” which won the Pulitzer Prize, and “The Man Who Came to Dinner”), Broadway directors (the original “My Fair Lady” and “Camelot”) and screenwriters (“A Gentleman’s Agreement,” “A Star is Born”).
Hart died unexpectedly at age 59, so he never had a chance to write a second chapter to his memoir incorporating many of these achievements. Still, those early years provided more than enough drama for a successful play — or at least they should have.