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Legendary Theater Critic Dies

By Laura L. Krug, the crimson staff

Legendary Boston theater critic Elliot Norton ’26 died at his home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Sunday. He was 100.

He lived most of his life in Boston, writing for the Boston Post, the Boston Record American and the Boston Herald American (now the Boston Herald) over his 48 year career.

He retired in 1982, having reviewed more than 6,000 performances.

“He was very highly honored by the theater community in Boston,” said Fredric W. Wilson, curator of the Harvard Theater Collection in Pusey Library. “I don’t think anyone could say they didn’t appreciate Elliot Norton.”

Wilson said Norton possessed a style of criticism that garnered him a tremendous amount of respect.

“In general, I think he had the reputation of giving very constructive points in his reviews,” Wilson said. “He often would reserve an opinion about a play because he thought it wasn’t ready for review yet.”

Wilson recounted a story of a play by Cole Porter, whose opening performance Norton went to see. He refused to review the show, saying that there were so many technical problems in the way of the artistry that he wasn’t sure what to make of it.

“He was a very contructive critic. He loved to see plays succeed and I think that’s an admirable thing. I think he liked very much the idea that playwrights were receptive to his opinions,” Wilson said.

Norton received many awards from the theater world, including election into the Theater Hall of Fame. He won a Tony Award in 1971, the George Jean Nathan Award in 1964 and a George Foster Peabody Award in 1962 for his television program, “Elliot Norton Reviews.”


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