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S. J. Perelman Papers

Brown University Library

Box A, John Hay Library
Providence, RI 02912
Tel: 401-863-2146
E-mail: hay@brown.edu

Biographical note

Sidney Joseph Perelman was born on February 1, 1904, in Brooklyn, NY, to Joseph (a machinist and merchant) and Sophia (Charren) Perelman. During Perelman's childhood his family moved to Providence, RI.

S.J. Perelman attended Brown University (class of 1925) as did his future brother-in-law, Nathanael West (class of 1924). Perelman's wife, Laura West Perelman, graduated from Pembroke College, Brown University (class of 1930) and went on to collaborate with her husband on several screenplays and plays. While at Brown University, S.J. Perelman became a cartoonist for the Brown Jug, the campus humor magazine.

Perelman's first book, Dawn Ginsbergh's Revenge (1929) brought him to the attention of Groucho Marx. Over the next several years Perelman wrote screenplays (including the Marx Brothers' films Monkey Business and Horse Feathers), plays, and books. In 1956 Perelman shared an Academy Award for his collaboration as a screenwriter for the film Around the World in 80 Days.

S.J. Perelman regularly contributed essays to The New Yorker with absurd titles such as "Frou-Frou; or, The Future of Vertigo", "Monet Makes the World Go Round", and "A Child's Garden of Extroversion". Perelman's prolific short stories, essays, and letters have been compiled in various collections of his work such as Baby, It's Cold Inside, Rising Gorge, and Eastward Ha! A writer of travel essays, a 74 year old Perelman attempted to reverse the 8,000-mile route followed in Around the World in 80 Days, driving his 1949 MG across Europe, through the Middle East and India.

S.J. Perelman died October 17, 1979, in New York, NY.

For background on S. J. Perelman and Nathanael West (also known as Nathan Wallenstein Weinstein) please consult Contemporary Authors (Gale Research, Detroit). Additional biographical information may be found in the Encyclopedia Brunoniana.