1908 - 1980
“Robert Ardrey was that rarity in Hollywood, a writer who beat Hollywood and its producers, moguls, and stars at their own game of amassing power, wealth, and respect. Equally comfortable dealing with literary editors such as Bennett Cerf or moguls like Darryl F. Zanuck, he also retained his credibility in the intellectual realm by authoring texts on anthropology, history, and sociology that remain widely respected decades after their publication.”from Robert Ardrey's All Movie Guide bio
A playwright first and foremost, Robert Ardrey wrote plays that “engaged with their time” - from exploring the relationship of humans and machines in Casey Jones, to supporting civil rights with Jeb, to celebrating human potential and progress with Thunder Rock.
Thunder Rock, Robert Ardrey’s international classic, became a symbol of British resistance during WWII and was called by The Herald Tribune: “A cry of hope for humanity that cannot be repeated too often.”
In his second career, Robert Ardrey wrote some of Hollywood’s most famous early adaptations - and was nominated for a best original screenplay Oscar® for Khartoum.
International bestsellers from the moment African Genesis was first published in 1961, read the series that popularized evolution and inspired a generation, from the Apollo 8 astronauts to Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick.
The illustrations of Berdine Ardrey, which have been delighting readers since the initial publications, are now available in limited-edition letterpress prints from Arbalest Press.
Born in 1908, Robert Ardrey was an American playwright and author who grew up on the South Side of Chicago. He attended the nearby University of Chicago, graduating in 1930. It was the very beginning of the Great Depression, which he writes in his autobiography “was the making of me… because it deprived me of any incentive other than to write.” While in college he had taken writing course with the then young and recently famous Thornton Wilder, who in the years ahead, more than anyone else, was his mentor. Ardrey worked at numerous unusual jobs, including pounding away at a piano in an Al Capone era speakeasy. Another was as a guide to the Mayan exhibition at the Chicago Century of Progress Exhibition, which opened in April, 1933. Meanwhile, he wrote drafts of plays and sent them to Wilder, who finally gave his approval when he felt the work was good enough to get produced on Broadway.
STREETER: Let’s just not argue. You can call me stupid, all right. I can call you a coward, all right. It’s just I believe one thing, you believe something else. I think the world’s got an outside chance, you believe it hasn’t. That’s all.— Thunder Rock (1939)
We were born of risen apes, not fallen angels, and the apes were armed killers besides. And so what shall we wonder at? Our murders and massacres and missiles, and our irreconcilable regiments? Or our treaties whatever they may be worth; our symphonies however seldom they may be played; our peaceful acres, however frequently they may be converted to battlefields; our dreams however rarely they may be accomplished. The miracle of man is not how far he has sunk but how magnificently he has risen. We are known among the stars by our poems, not our corpses.— African Genesis (1961)
A skepticism concerning what one beholds — whether in the arts, in the sciences, or in the deeply etched channels of fashionable response — contains a force essential to the survival of civilized man.— Plays of Three Decades (1968)
Why is man man? As long as we have had minds to think with, stars to ponder upon, dreams to disturb us, curiosity to inspire us, hours free for meditation, words to place our thoughts in order, the question like a restless ghost has prowled the cellars of our consciousness.— The Hunting Hypothesis (1976)
Man beset by anarchy, banditry, chaos and extinction must at last resort turn to that chamber of horrors, human enlightenment. For he has nowhere else to turn.— African Genesis (1961)
“With an icy grand compassion for the human case, Robert Ardrey was a master craftsman of controversy and the human story. Admired by many, reviled by some, ignored by none, Robert Ardrey has always stimulated what Homo sapiens is supposed to do best: thinking. Yet, also, there is a mellow music [in his work], which makes it worthy to read and finish in the evening, near a fireplace, when one is thoughtfully proudest about human life.”— Lionel Tiger, Rutgers University