S. J. Perelman

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Perelman, S. J.

Perelman, S. J. (Sidney Joseph Perelman) (pĕrˈəlmən), 1904–79, American comic writer, b. Brooklyn, N.Y. He entered the magazine world as a cartoonist for a New York weekly, soon turning from drawing to writing. Perelman became known for the parodic articles filled with outrageous puns and lively wordplay that he contributed to the New Yorker from 1931 on. He also wrote for Broadway, notably the musical One Touch of Venus (1943) and the comedy The Beauty Part (1962). He penned screenplays for such movies as the Marx Brothers' Monkey Business (1931) and Horse Feathers (1932) and the comic epic Around the World in Eighty Days (1956, Academy Award). Perelman's sometimes archly satirical, sometimes uproariously screwball humor is suggested in the titles of some of his best-known books—Strictly from Hunger (1937), Westward Ha! (1948), The Ill-Tempered Clavichord (1952), The Road to Miltown; or, Under the Spreading Atrophy (1957), The Rising Gorge (1961), and Baby It's Cold Inside (1970).


See Don't Tread on Me: The Selected Letters of S. J. Perelman (1987) ed. by P. Crowther; Conversations with S. J. Perelman (1995) ed. by T. Teicholz; S. J. Perelman: A Life (1987) by D. Hermann; S. J. Perelman: An Annotated Bibliography (1985) and S. J. Perelman: A Critical Study (1987) by S. Gale.

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Perelman, S. J. (Sidney Joseph)

(1904–79) writer; born in New York City. After graduating from Brown (1925), he returned to New York City to work as a cartoonist and writer for various periodicals (1925–29). The first collection of his pieces, Dawn Ginsbergh's Revenge (1929), attracted the attention of Hollywood, and in the next quarter-century he would write 11 film scripts, including parts of some Marx Brothers movies. Starting in 1931, he also began to publish the first of what proved to be hundreds of pieces in the New Yorker, many of them biting satires of contemporary American mores and manners, but all written with his inimitable mix of baroque language, tongue-in-cheek parody, and zany wit. They were periodically collected in such volumes as The Most of S. J. Perelman (1958). Although he settled in Bucks County, Pa., in his later years, he was an inveterate traveler and published several books about his travels, such as Westward Ha! or Around the World in Eighty Cliches (1948).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.