Charles J. Gussman

Interviewee:   Charles J. Gussman
Date of birth/age at interview:  1913/65
Interviewer:  Nancy Menzies
Interview date:  August 8, 1978
Interview location:  Gussman home in Doylestown
Interview length:  37 minutes
Time span discussed:  1935 to 1978

Summary:  Charles delivers an insider’s view of the famous writers’ enclave around New Hope from the 1930s to the late 1960s. Not only was he an accomplished writer, he knew many writers living in Bucks County, and he knew (and lived) their life style and shared their working habits. His eye for the informative detail and whimsical story makes this a special oral history about the often-evoked creative Bucks County colony.


Time markers:
00:00 – writing a novel, not making great progress; always did radio, television, film
00:47 – the novel started in the early 1960s as a stage play
02:40 – came to Bucks County in 1944 at age 30 from Connecticut; Bucks County reputation for being good for writers, friend Wynn Wright invited him here
03:40 – managed a television station in 1935; more on move to Bucks County
05:28 – at that time about 60 writers, and at least 10 Pulitzer Prize winners, living in Bucks County: Moss Hart, George Kaufman, Dorothy Parker, Samuel and Bella Spewack, Oscar Hammerstein, Stephen Sondhiem, Budd Schulberg
09:20 – not a great deal of socializing among writers, knew each other and visited each other’s houses, but not close
10:36 – many spent weekends in Bucks County, close to New York; he commuted for year.
11:20 – Paul Whiteman and Oscar Hammerstein also on train; story about Hammerstein; train good for socializing and working
13:10 – arts will prosper where artists get together
14:00 – artists in County before writers; early writers John Wexley, S.J. Perelman, and brother-in-law Nathaniel West, Sid Berman
16:44 – world of writing changed, theater writers live on two coasts; few successful writers still living in Bucks County (in 1978)
19:10 – bought farm in 1944, down from 65 acres to 5 acres
20:20 – writers want different levels of society,
21:11 – Moss Hart and Kitty Carlisle’s house, looked like Hollywood mansion, one large house party gathering of writers and playwrights
24:01 – story of F. Scott Fitzgerald
25:02 – area no longer a writer’s colony; will continue as artist colony
25:25 – writers came to Bucks County because houses and land cheap (1930s and 1940s)
27:22 – writers wondered where to go from here
28:05 – trains to Trenton from New York on weekends crowded with actors and writers
28:34 – story about writing pilot for series, set replicated Doylestown street and the old Doylestown courthouse, show did not sell
32:15 – will stay in Doylestown although looked at other places
33:20 – really no good place for writers; writing in Mexico, why he dislikes California
36:45 – great advantages of Bucks County, biggest is not California or New York City

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