It could be said that journalist and playwright Russel McKinley Crouse had writing in his blood; born in Findlay, Ohio, Crouse's father was a newspaper editor and publisher. Russel Crouse spent his early childhood in Findlay, then Toledo, Ohio, before moving to Enid, Oklahoma with his family. Upon graduating from high school in Enid, Crouse "received an alternate's appointment to the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis." Crouse never made it into the Naval Academy, though, because he failed geometry at an Annapolis prep school and was asked to leave.
On his way back to the Midwest, Crouse stopped in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he took a reporting job at the Cincinnati Commercial Tribune. When health problems prevented the reporter from entering college, he took a staff position at the Kansas City Star, where he'd once held a summer job.
Crouse continued his newspaper career there until 1916, when he moved back to Cincinnati (where his family now lived) and took a political reporter job at the Cincinnati Post. One year later, he enlisted in the Navy; while in service, he managed to continue his journalistic pursuits by serving as night editor for the newspaper at his naval training station.
Just months after his 1919 discharge, Crouse replaced a friend as editor of The New York Globe, where he remained on staff until the paper folded in 1923.
Crouse married his first wife, Alison Smith, in 1923; he continued his newsman's career first at the Evening Mail, and then the New York Evening Post, where he worked until 1931. He then accepted a public relations-type job at the Theatre Guild; Crouse's interests began to drift toward other forms of writing, though, and so, between 1930 and 1932, he published four books.
Crouse met his destiny in 1934, when he was recruited at the last minute to help write a musical with a writer named Howard Lindsay; the production was in such disarray when Crouse was hired, even the name had not yet been selected. Crouse recalled how the show's lead actor saved the day: "Billy Gaxton finally baptized it accidentally. In answer to a question as to whether he would mind making an entrance a minute after the curtain went up, Mr. Gaxton replied, 'In this kind of a spot, Anything Goes!' We all leaped on the last words and an electrician started spelling them out in electric lights. Mr. Porter dashed off to write a title song. He came in with it the next day -- as gay a melody as any I've heard and with a shrewd, sharp, biting, brilliant lyric."
Anything Goes was a brilliant success, as was the partnership between Crouse, a great comedic writer, and Lindsay, a sage of the theater -- and so they continued to work together. "If any two people can be said to think alike, we do," Lindsay once stated. Their professional partnership spanned the next thirty-two years, encompassing fifteen more plays and five screenplays. Although they began with musicals, Crouse and Lindsay eventually gravitated toward writing nonmusical plays as well. Their first major success in this genre was Life With Father, which spanned over 3200 Broadway performances.
In 1945, two years after the death of his first wife, Crouse married Anna Erskine. One year later, Crouse and Lindsay won a Pulitzer Prize for the political satire State of the Union. Later, when Crouse's daughter was born, he named her Lindsay, after the man who had shared his fame and success.
Perhaps the most timeless of Crouse and Lindsay's efforts was a musical play they wrote and released in 1960, about a large family of singers who escapes occupied Austria during World War II, called The Sound of Music. In 1965, the play was made into a classic motion picture starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. One year after the movie's release, Crouse died.