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Author photo. Courtesy of the <a href="http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/id?485274">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)

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Maurine Watkins was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and attended Crawfordsville High School in Indiana. She graduated first in her class from Butler College in Indiana and then pursued graduate studies in Greek at Radcliffe College. While at Radcliffe, she signed up for a playwriting class at Harvard. She then moved to Chicago, and by 1924 had landed a job as a reporter with the Chicago Tribune. For seven months, she covered the murders and the subsequent trials of Belva Gaertner and Beulah Sheriff Annan. She also briefly reported on the Leopold and Loeb kidnapping-murder case. She quit the newspaper and went to Yale to study playwriting again with her former teacher, George Pierce Baker. In 1926, she wrote a play called "Chicago" featuring thinly-disguised versions of Beulah Annan ("Roxie Hart") and Belva Gaertner ("Velma Kelly"). "Chicago" opened on Broadway in December 1926 and ran for 172 performances before going on tour for two years. A silent film version was produced in 1927 by Cecil B. DeMille. "Chicago" was adapted into a film again in 1942 as Roxie Hart. Maurine Watkins wrote a total of about 20 plays, but "Chicago" was her most successful. It led to her being offered work on Hollywood screenplays, including the 1936 comedy Libeled Lady. After her death, "Chicago" was adapted by Bob Fosse and others as a stage musical with a score by John Kander and Fred Ebb that ran from 1975 to 1977 in New York. A film version of the musical was released in 2002.
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