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Jerome Chodorov, 93; Co-Wrote 'My Sister Eileen' for Stage, Film

September 14, 2004|From Associated Press

Playwright Jerome Chodorov, co-author of "My Sister Eileen," which he later adapted as the Tony Award-winning musical "Wonderful Town," has died. He was 93.

Chodorov died Sunday at a hospital in Nyack, N.Y., said his daughter, Susan.

"My Sister Eileen," written with Joseph A. Fields, was one of the playwright's biggest successes, opening on Broadway in 1940 and running for 865 performances. The story of two sisters from Ohio who come to conquer New York during the Depression starred Shirley Booth as the sardonic, aspiring writer Ruth Sherwood.

Rosalind Russell played the role in the 1953 musical version for which Chodorov and Fields supplied the book and Leonard Bernstein, Betty Comden and Adolph Green the score. A revival is currently on Broadway, with Donna Murphy portraying Ruth.

Chodorov and Fields had several other Broadway hits in the 1940s and early '50s. The 1941 comedy "Junior Miss," about a young girl who becomes a debutante after a series of misadventures, was based on Sally Benson's short stories. It ran for 710 performances.

"Anniversary Waltz," a 1954 comedy starring Kitty Carlisle and Macdonald Carey, had a 615-performance run. Though it received mostly negative reviews, audiences responded to its story of frantic marital discord and satire of television, which was beginning to lure audiences from Broadway.

In the early 1950s, Chodorov was blacklisted for a time, after he was named in testimony before the House Committee on Un-American Activities as having attended meetings of the Communist Party.

Chodorov was born in New York City, the youngest of four children. He worked for the New York World newspaper before moving to California to join his brother, Edward Chodorov, also a playwright and screenwriter.

Jerome Chodorov worked on more than 50 films in Hollywood including "Dancing Feet" (1936), "All Over Town" (1936), "Dulcy" (1939), "Louisiana Purchase" (1942) and "Murder in the Big House" (1942), as well as film versions of "My Sister Eileen" (1942) and "Junior Miss" (1945). He served in the Army Air Forces from 1942 to 1945.

Among Chodorov's other plays with Fields were "The French Touch" (1945) and "The Ponder Heart" (1956), which was adapted from a Eudora Welty short story.

Chodorov supplied the books for several other musicals, including "The Girl in Pink Tights," (1954) which was composer Sigmund Romberg's last Broadway musical, and "I Had a Ball" (1964), starring comedian Buddy Hackett.

His last Broadway production was "A Talent for Murder," written with Norman Panama. The comedy-mystery, starring Claudette Colbert and Jean-Pierre Aumont, had a 10-week run in 1981.

Information on survivors was not immediately available.

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