AUTHORS OF THE PAST – ROBERT G. NATHAN

 

There is no distance on this earth as far away as yesterday.  – Robert Nathan

 

 

Novelist, poet, musical composer, screenwriter: Robert Nathan was all of these. 

Author Robert Nathan is perhaps best known for his book Portrait of Jennie, a haunting romantic fantasy which was made into a 1948 movie produced by David O. Selznick. Selznick became so obsessed with the compelling story that he spent several years and millions of dollars on its production, casting his lover Jennifer Jones in the leading role.  The setting for the book is 1930’s New York City, where a talented but starving artist falls in love with a beautiful young woman who seems to come from another time.  This ageless book and movie has developed a cult following over the years, and both are in demand to this day.  Much of Nathan’s writing has an essence of gentle fantasy and other-worldliness, delving into the mysteries of life. 

 

Several other novels by Robert Nathan were made into films, including The Clock (1945, starring Judy Garland and Robert Walker) and The Bishop’s Wife (made into a 1947 film under the same title and starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young, and David Niven; remade again more recently as The Preacher’s Wife, starring Denzel Washington).  The Clock was a beautiful story in both book and film, filled with suspense and understated romance, as well as a sense of humanity.  The Bishop’s Wife has long been a perennial Christmas-time favorite.

 

Nathan’s book One More Spring (1933) focused on the lives of a group of displaced people living in Central Park during the Great Depression, and how they helped each other cope with their bleak lives.   It was made into a film directed by Henry King and released in 1935.

 

 

 

 

The Enchanted Voyage (1936), a story about the search for a missing soldier, was filmed as Wake Up and dream in 1946.

 

Nathan wrote prolifically, producing forty novels, two children’s books, two non-fiction books and ten books of poetry in his lifetime.  He also wrote screenplays while working in Hollywood for MGM, including The White Cliffs of Dover (1943) and the movie adaptation of his own The Clock.

 

Born in New York City on January 2, 1894 into a fairly wealthy family, he attended Harvard University, although he never graduated.  He did begin writing short stories and poetry while enrolled there, and married his first wife while in his junior year.  He soon dropped out of Harvard to support his family with a job in advertising.   During this time he wrote his first novel Peter Kindred (1919) which was semi-autobiographical in nature. It didn’t fare well with the critics, but during the 1920’s he wrote seven more novels, including his very successful The Bishop’s Wife.  Through his continuing output of well-received novels and anthologies of poetry, he became a highly respected writer during the 1930’s and 40’s. 

 

Nathan had a distinctly musical side.  He composed a violin sonata and music for the works of Walt Whitman, A. E. Housman, and Dunkirk (all were performed in New York City).  His own poems were set to music by leading composers of that era. 

 

Married seven times, Nathan’s first five marriages ended in divorce.  His sixth wife died and in 1970 at the age of 76 he married British actress Anna Lee.  The marriage was a happy one for both of them and endured to the end of his life, when he passed away at age 91.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

Novels:

 

Peter Kindred, 1919

Autumn, 1921

The Puppet Master, 1923

Jonah, 1925

The Fiddler in Barly, 1926

The Woodcutter’s House, 1927

The Bishop’s Wife, 1928

There is Another Heaven, 1929

The Orchard, 1931

  (continued next page…)

 

 

Novels, continued…

 

One More Spring, 1933

Road of Ages, 1935

The Enchanted Voyage, 1936

Winter in April, 1938

Journey of Tapiola, 1939

Portrait of Jennie, 1940

They Went On Together, 1941

Tapiola’s Brave Regiment, 1941

The Sea-Gull Cry, 1942

But Gently Day, 1943

Mr. Whittle and the Morning Star, 1947

Long After Summer, 1948

The River Journey, 1949

The Innocent Eve, 1951

The Married Look, 1951

The Train in the Meadow, 1953

Sir Henry, 1955

So Love Returns, 1958

The Rancho of the Little Loves, 1956

The Color of the Evening, 1969

Digging the Weans, 1960 (chapbook)

The Wilderness-Stone, 1961

A Star in the Wind, 1962

The Devil With Love, 1963

The Fair, 1964

The Mallott Diaries, 1965

Stonecliff, 1967

Mia, 1970

The Elixir, 1971

The Summer Meadows, 1973

Heaven and Hell and the Magas Factor, 1975

 

Children’s Books:

 

The Snowflake and the Starfish, 1959

Tappy, 1968

 

Non-fiction:

 

The Concert, 1940

Journal for Josephine, 1943

 

(See Poetry next page)

 

 

 

Poetry:

 

Youth Grows Old, 1922

A Cedar Box, 1929

Selected Poems, 1935

A Winter Tide: Sonnets and Poems, 1940

Dunkirk: A Ballad, 1942

Morning in Iowa, 1944

The Darkening Meadow, 1945

The Green Leaf, 1950

The Married Man, 1962

Evening Song: Selected Poems 1950-1973, 1973

 

 

Many of Robert Nathan’s books are available on our website!