Morrie Ryskind bigraphy, stories - American activist and etertainer

Morrie Ryskind : biography

October 20, 1895 - August 24, 1985

Morrie Ryskind (October 20, 1895 – August 24, 1985) was an American dramatist, lyricist and writer of theatrical productions and motion pictures, who became a conservative political activist later in life.


  • The Cocoanuts (1929) (starring the Marx Brothers)
  • Animal Crackers (1930) (starring the Marx Brothers)
  • A Night at the Opera (1935) (starring the Marx Brothers)
  • My Man Godfrey (1936) - Oscar nomination
  • Stage Door (1937) - Oscar nomination
  • Room Service (1938) (starring the Marx Brothers)
  • His Girl Friday (1940) movie version of The Front Page
  • Penny Serenade (1941)
  • Where Do We Go From Here? (1945)
  • It's in the Bag! (1945) starring Fred Allen

Political activism

For many years he had been a member of the Socialist Party of America, and during the 1930s he participated in Party-sponsored activities, even performing sketches at antiwar events, but split with the Party's "Old Guard faction" led by Louis Waldman. His politics soon moved to the right. In 1940, Ryskind abandoned the Democratic Party, and he opposed President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's pursuit of a third term, writing the campaign song for that year's Republican Party presidential nominee Wendell Willkie.Ryskind, Pajamas, pp.169-171. About this time, he became a friend to writers Max Eastman,Diggins, John, Up From Communism, Harper & Row, 1975, pp. 201-233; Ryskind, Pajamas, p.184; and, O'Neill, William L., The Last Romantic: a Life of Max Eastman, 1991, Transaction Ayn Rand,Burns, Jennifer, Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right, 2009, Oxford Univ. Press, p.131. John Dos Passos,Ryskind, Pajamas, p.179, 184. Suzanne La FolletteChamberlain, John, A Life With the Printed Word, Regnery, 1982, p.138. and Raymond Moley.Ryskind, Pajamas, p.189. Later, he would become friend to William F. Buckley, Jr. and future U.S. President Ronald Reagan.Ryskind, Pajamas, p.178, pp.206-208. In 1947, he appeared before the House Committee on Un-American Activities as a "Friendly Witness." Ryskind never sold another script after that appearance, and he believed that his appearance before HUAC was responsible, although there is no direct evidence of an organized campaign against the "Friendly Witnesses."Ryskind, Pajamas, pp.165-166.

In the 1950s, he contributed articles to the early free market publication, The Freeman,Chamberlain, John, A Life With the Printed Word, p.138. Later, he lent money to Buckley to help start The National Review,Ryskind, Pajamas, pp.183-184. which began publication in 1955, another journal to which he was an early contributor. Ryskind briefly joined the John Birch Society, but soon disassociated himself from the group when they began to claim that Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower were part of the Soviet conspiracy.Ryskind, Pajamas, pp.198-199.

Starting in 1960, Ryskind wrote a feature column in the Los Angeles Times, which promoted conservative ideas for the next eleven years. His son, Allan H. Ryskind, was the longtime editor of the conservative Washington, D.C., weekly Human Events.Ryskind, Pajamas, pp.186-187.

The elder Ryskind's autobiography, I Shot an Elephant in My Pajamas: The Morrie Ryskind Story, details his adventures from Broadway to Hollywood, as well as his conversion to conservative politics.


Ryskind attended Columbia University but was suspended shortly before he was due to graduate after he called university president Nicholas Murray Butler "Czar Nicholas" in the pages of the humor magazine Jester in 1917. Ryskind was criticizing Butler for refusing to allow Count Nikolai Tolstoy, nephew of Leo Tolstoy, to speak on campus.Ryskind, Morrie, and Roberts, John H. M., I Shot an Elephant in My Pajamas: the Morrie Ryskind Story, 1994, Huntington House (hereafter, "Ryskind, Pajamas"), pp.34-36.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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