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Author photo. Courtesy of the <a href="http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/id?TH-52528">NYPL Digital Gallery</a> (image use requires permission from the New York Public Library)

Courtesy of the NYPL Digital Gallery (image use requires permission from the New York Public Library)

Bella Spewack (1899–1990)

Author of Kiss Me Kate [1953 film]

Includes the names: Bella Cohen Spewack

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Bella Spewack, née Cohen, was born in Transylvania, now Romania, then a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, into a family of Hungarian Jews. Her parents divorced when she was a baby and she emigrated to the USA with her mother, settling in the tenements of the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Her mother remarried to a man who abandoned the family a few years later while she was pregnant with Bella's stepbrother. Bella graduated from Washington Irving High School and began working as a reporter for a string of newspapers and as a press agent. In 1922, she married Sam Spewack, a foreign correspondent for The New York World. The couple spent four years reporting from in Moscow and Europe. After returning to the USA, they started writing plays and screenplays together and separately, mostly comedies. In 1940, they received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Story for My Favorite Wife. They also wrote some of the most memorable lyrics in musical theater history. Kiss Me Kate (1948), a modern update on Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, was one of their collaborations with Cole Porter and won them two Tony Awards; it was adapted into a popular film. The play My Three Angels (1953) was adapted as the film We're No Angels. Bella chronicled her early life in Streets: A Memoir of the Lower East Side, which was published posthumously in 1995.
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