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It’s a Wonderful Life

Lawrence Bush
April 7, 2017

Lyricist, screenwriter, and playwright Jo Swerling, who wrote or co-authored dozens of Hollywood screenplays in the 1930s and ’40s, including It’s a Wonderful Life, Lifeboat, Pennies from Heaven, Platinum Blonde, and The Pride of the Yankees, was born in Berdichev, Ukraine on this date in 1897. He grew up on New York’s Lower East Side and began his writing career as a journalist and sketch-writer for vaudeville. Among his early creative projects was Street Cinderella, a Marx Brothers comedy, and an unreleased silent comedy called Humor Risk (1921), also for the Marx Brothers. For the Broadway stage, Swerling wrote The New Yorkers (1927) and co-authored (with Abe Burrows) the book for Guys and Dolls (1950) and (with Edward G. Robinson) The Kibitzer (1929). He died at 67 in 1964.

Lou Gehrig: Is it three strikes, Doc?

Clinic doctor: You want it straight?

Lou Gehrig: Sure, straight.

Clinic doctor: It’s three strikes.” --Jo Swerling, The Pride of the Yankees

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.