N. Richard Nash, was born Nathan Richard Nusbaum in Philadelphia, PA, on June 8,1913. He was the youngest and only boy of 6 children. His father, Sael, a bit of a dreamer, convinced a German newspaper to send him to the U.S. as a stringer to cover a famous actress of the time, Eleanor Duse. Sael Nusbaum insisted on continuing to follow and report on her long after the newspaper had lost interest ... and fired him. As a boy, Nathan was taken by his father to nightly meetings of local political groups where he would curl up under the table, listening to the barnstorming rhetoric of the activists of the time. Sael died when Nathan was 16.
Nathan's mother, Jenny Nusbaum was a tough, resourceful woman who managed the family grocery store through the Depression, finding ways to feed neighbors and passersby when they were down on their luck. Jenny didn't have much time or attention for Nate especially after his father's death. While his older sisters were marrying or getting jobs, Nathan held to his dream of becoming a writer, earning prizes and acclaim - but not much money - in school and through writing opportunities as a young man. He attributed some of his early courage and success to the care and protection, in the family, of his older sister, Mae, who was, in part, the model for the enduring character, Lizzie in his most famous work, The Rainmaker.
On a full scholarship to the college of his choice but unable to afford to leave Philadelphia in the heart of the Great Depression, Nathan attended the University of Pennsylvania. There and at Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges he taught drama, inspiring at least one of his early plays, The Young and Fair.
In 1935 he married Helena Taylor, an actress, and with her had a son, Cristopher. In the late 1930s Nathan Nusbaum's success attracted interest by the movie studios, so he and his young family moved to Los Angeles. It was in Hollywood that Nathan R. Nusbaum became N. Richard Nash. Cristopher remembers several conversations about how the name should be chosen, including one evening at the kitchen table, the family gathered around a telephone book. He recalls his father saying, "Nash, yes, that's it."
Nash created many screenplays for Hollywood and soon was also writing for the Broadway stage and what came to be referred to as the Golden Age of Television. He was also called upon often by Broadway producers to serve as a play doctor, a secret consultant and often writer and editor of foundering plays readying for production.
When Cristopher was 16, Nash and his wife divorced and Nash moved to New York. There, he met and soon married Janice Rule, an actress. That marriage was short-lived and soon after, Nash met and married Katherine Copeland, an actress and television host. They had two children, Jennifer and Amanda.
N. Richard Nash continued to write for "Hollyvood," as Nash jokingly called it, where he worked with, among others, Samuel Goldwyn at Metro Goldwyn Mayer. Nash had many stories about Goldwyn, including Goldwyn's now famous way of calling Nash after reading one his scripts to say, "Richard, it's perfect! Now come and fix it." Katherine Nash also recalled a warm relationship with Goldwyn who seated her at his right at one of his many big dinner parties. At the time, Katherine was pregnant with her first child and unaccustomed to managing her bulk. Apparently, she spilled a glass of wine directly into Goldwyn's lap. Graciously, he did not budge, but all the neighboring dinner guests tossed her their napkins.
Over the course of his life, Nash wrote for the theater and the screen. Later, Nash wrote fiction, and two of his novels found their ways to the New York Times bestsellers list: East, Wind Rain, and The Last Magic.
Missing the experience he'd had at the beginning of his career teaching at Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and the University of Pennslvania, Nash returned whenever he could make time to teach at many academic drama departments including Yale, Princeton. and Brandeis Universities. He loved teaching and was a warm, engaging, but firm instructor. His single, most consistent admonishment to young writers: "Finish it!"
Very early on, though, long before Nash got established as a dramatist, he also did a stint at the advertising agency NW Air, where he is said to have originated a number of very successful campaigns, including the slogan for De Beers, "A diamond is forever." He also told a story of having saved NW Air from embarrassment when the agency was on the verge of launching a new toothpaste, Dreck, which means excrement in Yiddish.
In the early 1960s during a lull in his career and in an effort to acquire a full wood-working shop tax deductibly, he also created and operated a successful mail-order company, Country Crafts, through which he sold reproduction furniture that he made and marketed himself. He closed the business when he received a larger order from Bloomingdales than he was comfortable filling.
In the 1970s, as theatrical styles were changing, Nash adopted a new voice under the pseudonym, John Roc. As Roc, he wrote two very dark works, Fire! a play, and Winter Blood, a novel. Nash was convinced that no one would take these works seriously if written under his own name and managed to keep the secret from almost everyone but his immediate family until his memorial service in the spring of 2001. After he died, we discovered two other pseudonyms under which, as far as we can tell, he never published. But there's always a mystery.
To Learn More:
For information about Nash, or how to obtain rights to his work, email us at info @ NRichardNash.com. Nash's novels are currently out of print, but can still be found online. A new digital edition of Selected Plays will be out in 2013.