Robert E. Sherwood


Robert E. Sherwood : biography

4 April 1896 – 4 November 1955

His patriotism led him to work as a speechwriter for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He recounted this period with his book Roosevelt and Hopkins which won a Pulitzer Prize and a Bancroft Prize in 1949.

Sherwood is credited with originating the phrase which came to be shortened as the ‘arsenal of democracy’ and later used by Franklin Roosevelt in his speeches. Sherwood had been quoted on May 12, 1940 by the New York Times, "this country is already, in effect, an arsenal for the democratic Allies."Gould, Jack (May 12, 1940). The Broadway Stage Has Its First War Play. The New York Times. Quoting Robert Emmet Sherwood, "this country is already, in effect, an arsenal for the democratic Allies." Although the French economist, Jean Monnet had allegedly used the phrase later in 1940, "arsenal of democracy," he was urged not to use it again so Franklin Roosevelt could make use of it in his speeches.

Sherwood also served for a time as Director of the Office of War Information. He returned to dramatic writing after the war and produced his memorable script for the film The Best Years of Our Lives which was directed by William Wyler. The 1946 film explores how the lives of three servicemen have been changed after they return home from war. For this film, Sherwood was given an Academy Award for Best Screenplay.

Sherwood died of a heart attack in New York City in 1955.

A production of his work Small War on Murray Hill debuted at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on January 3, 1957.


  • The Road to Rome (1927)
  • The Love Nest (1927)
  • The Queen’s Husband (1928) – adapted into the 1931 film The Royal Bed.
  • Waterloo Bridge (1930) – adapted into a 1931 film and two soap-operas in Brazil. Another film was made in 1940 with Vivien Leigh and Robert Taylor.
  • This is New York (1930) – adapted into the 1932 film Two Kinds of Women.
  • Reunion in Vienna (1931) – adapted into a 1933 film.
  • Acropolis (1933)
  • The Petrified Forest (1935) – adapted into 1936 film with Leslie Howard and Bette Davis.
  • Tovarich (1935) – from a French comedy by Jacques Deval – adapted into a 1937 film, and a 1963 musical with Vivien Leigh and Jean Pierre Aumont.
  • Idiot’s Delight (1936) Pulitzer Prize for Drama – adapted into 1939 film.
  • Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1938) Pulitzer Prize for Drama – adapted into 1940 film. See Abe Lincoln in Illinois (film).
  • There Shall Be No Night (1940) Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
  • The Rugged Path (1945)
  • Miss Liberty (1949) – book for Irving Berlin musical – score includes Berlin’s setting of Emma Lazarus’s poem "The New Colossus" ("Give me your tired, your poor").
  • Small War on Murray Hill (1957) – produced posthumously.

Film portrayal

Sherwood was portrayed by the actor Nick Cassavetes in the 1994 film Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle.


  • 1949 Pulitzer Prize (Biography)