Elmer Rich: Contribution as American Playwright

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      Elmer Leopold Reizenstein (1892-1967), born in New York to German and Jewish parents, he left school at the age of 14 and worked for some time as a clerk in his cousin’s officer, studying law. He was admitted to the Bar in 1913 and shortly, after he gave up his legal career to become a playwright. His first play On Trial (1914) was a financial and critical success and effectively launched his career. He is often credited with inventing the technique later called flashback in On Trial, a courtroom drama, the action switches between testimony and flashbacks initiated by testimony, moving progressively further back in time to exonerate the accused man.

      Reizenstein, first play On Trial (1814) deals with relatively conventional themes of honesty, infidelity and the preying of the immoral rich upon female innocence. In the course of a long and active career that followed Rice wrote about 50 plays of which the best known are The Adding Machine (1923) and The Street Scene (1929) which won him the Pulitzer Prize. In his plays he employs the techniques of the motion picture. Here he uses the techniques of fantasy and symbolism to satirize the reduction of the individuals in the Machine Age. He continued to experiment with different styles. Street Scene is his most notable play with the presentation of slum life.

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