Ring Lardner (1885–1933)
From Ring Lardner: Stories & Other Writings
By the time he was in his thirties, Ring Lardner was a household name, one of the most popular sportswriters in American and an increasingly respected and influential short story writer. For much of his adult life, however, he wanted nothing more than to hit it big on Broadway.
Over the course of his career Larder wrote more than one hundred plays, sketches, and skits. Yet his many attempts to see his work staged were often frustrated by producers, directors, and actors, most infamously in the 1928 production of Elmer the Great, a Broadway flop that closed after forty performances and cost Lardner $6,000 even though the final play retained hardly anything he wrote for it. Before opening night of the trial run in Chicago, he jokingly (and nervously) wrote in his characteristic dialect, “I was invited to the first rehearsal which I listened all through it and then had to ask Sam Forrest the director if I hadn’t fell into the wrong theater by mistake.”
Among the many personalities who worked with Lardner in the theater during the 1920s, the one who perhaps caused him the most grief was Florenz Ziegfeld. Lardner was a huge fan and attended every single edition of Ziegfeld Follies from its creation in 1907 until the end of his life. He first worked with Ziegfeld when he created skits to be used in the Follies of 1922.
The annual Follies extravaganzas were destined to be hits regardless of who wrote them, but the various other Ziegfeld productions that Lardner worked on were sources of dissatisfaction for both men. Lardner, however, took out his frustration in a short story that portrays the Broadway producer as an egotistical blowhard utterly lacking in self-awareness. We present that story, “A Day with Conrad Green,” as our Story of the Week selection.