|Born||Ringgold Wilmer Lardner|
March 5, 1885
Niles, Michigan, United States
|Died||September 25, 1933 (aged 48)|
East Hampton, New York, United States
|Children||John, James, Ring Jr., and David.|
Ringgold Wilmer "Ring" Lardner (March 5, 1885 - September 25, 1933) was an American sports columnist and short-story writer best known for his satirical writings on sports, marriage, and the theatre. His contemporaries Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, and F. Scott Fitzgerald all professed strong admiration for his writing.
Born in Niles, Michigan, Ring Lardner was the son of wealthy parents, Henry and Lena Phillips Lardner. He was the youngest of nine children. Lardner's name came from a cousin of the same name. The cousin had been named by Lardner's uncle, Rear Admiral James L. Lardner, who had decided to name his son after a friend, Rear Admiral Cadwalader Ringgold, who was from a distinguished military family. Lardner never liked his given name and abbreviated it to Ring, naming one of his sons Ring Jr.
Lardner started his writing career as a sports columnist, finding work with the newspaper South Bend Times in 1905. In 1907, he relocated to Chicago, where he got a job with the Inter-Ocean. Within a year, he quit to work for the Chicago Examiner, and then for the Tribune. Two years later, Lardner was in St. Louis, writing the humorous baseball column Pullman Pastimes for Taylor Spink and the Sporting News. Some of this work was the basis for his book You Know Me, Al. Within three months, he was an employee of the Boston American.
In 1913, Lardner returned to the Chicago Tribune, which became the home newspaper for his syndicated column In the Wake of the News (started by Hugh Keough, who had died in 1912). The column appeared in more than 100 newspapers, and is still published in the Tribune. Lardner's Tribune and syndicated writing was not exclusively sports related: his dispatches from/near the World War One front were collected in the book My Four Weeks in France, and his immersive coverage of the 1920 Democratic Convention resulted in Lardner receiving 0.5 votes on the 23rd ballot.
In 1916, Lardner published his first successful book, You Know Me Al, an epistolary novel written in the form of letters by "Jack Keefe", a bush-league baseball player, to a friend back home. The letters made much use of the fictional author's idiosyncratic vernacular. It had initially been published as six separate but interrelated short stories in The Saturday Evening Post, causing some to classify the book as a collection of stories, others as a novel. Like most of Lardner's stories, You Know Me Al employs satire, in this case, to show the stupidity and avarice of a certain type of athlete. The journalist Andrew Ferguson wrote that "Ring Lardner thought of himself as primarily a sports columnist whose stuff wasn't destined to last, and he held to that absurd belief even after his first masterpiece, You Know Me Al, was published in 1916 and earned the awed appreciation of Virginia Woolf, among other very serious, unfunny people." Ferguson termed the book one of the top five pieces of American humor writing.
Sarah Bembrey has written about a singular event in Lardner's sportswriting experience: "In 1919 something happened that changed his way of reporting about sports and changed his love for baseball. This was the Black Sox scandal when the Chicago White Sox sold out the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds. Ring was exceptionally close to the White Sox and felt he was betrayed by the team. After the scandal, Ring always wrote about sports as if there were some kink to the outcome." Lardner's last fictional baseball writing was collected in the book Lose with a Smile (1933).
Lardner later published such stories as "Haircut", "Some Like Them Cold", "The Golden Honeymoon", "Alibi Ike", and "A Day with Conrad Green". He also continued to write follow-up stories to You Know Me Al, with the protagonist of that book, the headstrong but gullible Jack Keefe, experiencing various ups and downs in his major league career and in his personal life. Private Keefe's World War I training camp letters home to his friend Al were collected in the book Treat 'Em Rough: Letters From Jack the Kaiser Killer. The sequel, The Real Dope, followed Keefe overseas to the trenches in France.
Lardner also had a lifelong fascination with the theatre, although his only Broadway three-act successes were the thrice-filmed Elmer The Great, co-written with George M. Cohan, and June Moon, a comedy authored with Broadway veteran George S. Kaufman. Lardner also wrote skits for the Ziegfeld Follies. and a series of brief nonsense plays that ridiculed the conventions of the theatre using zany humor and outrageous, impossible stage directions, such as "The curtain is lowered for seven days to denote the lapse of a week."
He was a dedicated composer and lyricist: both his first - Zanzibar (1903) - and last - June Moon (1920) - published stage works included several Lardner tunes. He wrote at least one recorded song for Bert Williams, and provided the lyrics for the song "That Old Quartet" (1913) by Nathaniel D. Mann. Other collaborators of note included Aubrey Stauffer, Jerome Kern, and Vincent Youmans - with whom he toiled on the Ziegfeld Astaires musical, Smiles (1930).
Lardner was a good friend of F. Scott Fitzgerald and other authors of the Jazz Age. His books were published by Maxwell Perkins, who also served as Fitzgerald's editor. To create his first book of short stories Lardner had to get copies from the magazines who bought the stories -- he held his own short stories in low regard and did not save copies.
Lardner influenced Ernest Hemingway, who sometimes wrote articles for his high school newspaper using the pseudonym Ring Lardner, Jr. The two met during December 1928, thanks to Max Perkins, but did not become friends. Lardner's gift for dialogue heavily influenced the writer John O'Hara, who said he learned from reading Lardner "that if you wrote down speech as it is spoken truly, you produce true characters, and the opposite is also true: if your characters don't talk like people they aren't good characters" and added, "it's the attribute most lacking in American writers and almost totally lacking in the British."
J.D. Salinger referred to Lardner in two of his works, The Catcher in the Rye and Franny and Zooey. The protagonist says "My favorite author is my brother D.B. and my next favorite is Ring Lardner". Wayne C. Booth mentioned Lardner's famous short story "The Haircut" in his essay "Telling and Showing."
In his movie Eight Men Out (1988) about the Black Sox scandal, writer-director John Sayles portrayed Lardner as one of the clear-eyed observers who was not taken in by the conspiracy. In one scene, Lardner strolls through the White Sox train, singing a parody of the song "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles", changed to "I'm Forever Throwing Ballgames".
In 2016, Lardner was inducted into the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame.
Ring Lardner, Jr. was a screenwriter who was blacklisted after the Second World War as one of the Hollywood Ten, screenwriters who were incarcerated for contempt of Congress after refusing to answer questions posed by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). He won two Academy Awards for his screenplays--one before his imprisonment and blacklisting (for Woman of the Year in 1942), and one after (for M*A*S*H in 1970). His book, The Lardners, My Family Remembered (ISBN 0-06-012517-9), is a source of information on his father.
David Lardner worked for The New Yorker as a general reporter and war correspondent before he was killed by a landmine near Aachen, Germany on October 19, 1944, less than one month after his arrival in Europe.
Ring Lardner was a great-uncle to 1993 Pulitzer Prize winner George Lardner, Jr., a journalist at The Washington Post since 1963.