Connelly became a journalist with the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph until he moved to New York City where he worked as a drama critic. In 1919 Connelly began taking lunch with a group of young writers in the dining room at the Algonquin Hotel. One of the members, Murdock Pemberton, later recalled that he owner of the hotel, Frank Case, did what he could to encourage this gathering: "From then on we met there nearly every day, sitting in the south-west corner of the room. If more than four or six came, tables could be slid along to take care of the newcomers. we sat in that corner for a good many months... Frank Case, always astute, moved us over to a round table in the middle of the room and supplied free hors d'oeuvre. That, I might add, was no means cement for the gathering at any time... The table grew mainly because we then had common interests. We were all of the theatre or allied trades." Case admitted that he moved them to a central spot at a round table in the Rose Room, so others could watch them enjoy each other's company.
This group eventually became known as the Algonquin Round Table. Other regulars at these lunches included George S. Kaufman, Robert E. Sherwood, Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Alexander Woollcott, Heywood Broun, Harold Ross, Franklin Pierce Adams, Donald Ogden Stewart, Edna Ferber, Ruth Hale, Jane Grant, Neysa McMein, Alice Duer Miller, Charles MacArthur, Marc Connelly, Frank Crowninshield, John Peter Toohey, Lynn Fontanne, Alfred Lunt and Ina Claire.
Connelly was an important figure in the early days of the group: "We all lived rather excitedly and passionately. In those days, everything was of vast importance or only worthy of quick dismissal. We accepted each other - the whole crowd of us. I suppose there was a corps of about twenty or so who were intimate. We all ate our meals together, and lived in a very happy microcosm....We all shared one another's love for bright talk, contempt for banality, and the dedication to the use of whatever talents we had to their best employment."
Connelly claims that the group spent a lot of time at the studio of Neysa McMein. "The world in which we moved was small, but it was churning with a dynamic group of young people who included Robert C. Benchley, Robert S. Sherwood, Ring Lardner, Dorothy Parker, Franklin. P. Adams, Heywood, Broun, Edna Ferber, Alice Duer Miller, Harold Ross, Jane Grant, Frank Sullivan, and Alexander Woollcott. We were together constantly. One of the habitual meeting places was the large studio of New York's preeminent magazine illustrator, Marjorie Moran McMein, of Muncie, Indiana. On the advice of a nurnerologist, she concocted a new first name when she became a student at the Chicago Art Institute. Neysa McMein. Neysa's studio on the northeast corner of Sixth Avenue and Fifty-seventh Street was crowded all day by friends who played games and chatted with their startlingly beautiful young hostess as one pretty girl model after another posed for the pastel head drawings that would soon delight the eyes of America on the covers of such periodicals as the Ladies' Home Journal, Cosmopolitan, The American and The Saturday Evening Post."
Connelly joined up with George S. Kaufman to write Dulcy. The story is based on an idea by Franklin Pierce Adams and starred Lynn Fontanne as Dulcinea Smith. It opened at the Frazee Theatre in New York City on 13th August 1921. According to Caldwell Titcomb, "Dulcinea Smith is a witless, bromidic, meddlesome but well-meaning woman with a mania for engineering other people's lives. She gives a weekend house-party, and manages to have a finger in every pie and a foot in every mouth. She tries to fix her husband's business deals and do a little matchmaking on the side. She spouts cliches and misquotations with amazing volubility."
Howard Teichmann claims that "what was revolutionary about Dulcy was that it blew up a balloon labeled business, held it up for the audience to laugh at, and then stuck the sharp pin of satire into the balloon - and when it burst the audience laughed even harder." It was considered to be a new style of comedy that Broadway audiences liked and it was a great box-office success.
Malcolm Goldstein, the author of George S. Kaufman: His Life, His Theater (1979) has argued: "To be young and talented and living in New York in the 1920s, with money to spend and the promise of more of it to come - this, the happy situation of Kaufman and Connelly after the opening of Dulcy, was the best life imaginable. Connelly thought it was as fantastic as a child's dream of pleasure in which the whole sky was filled with balloons and anyone could pull down as many as he wished."
Connelly and Kaufman enjoyed the experience of writing a hit play and decided to carry on with this experiment. They usually met at Connelly's place in the Algonquin Hotel. They would at first discuss the structure of the play and then go away and write alternative scenes. They then would meet and compare them. Kaufman would usually have the job of turning the work into a final script. This resulted in four more plays, To the Ladies (1922), Merton of the Movies (1922), The Deep Tangled Wildwood (1923) and Beggar on Horseback (1924).
Kaufman found it difficult to work with Connelly and complained that he was constantly late for work. The two men were unable to recapture the success of Dulcy and in 1924 the two men decided to end their partnership. Connelly later admitted: "When each of us decided to do a play on his own, the decision ended only our constant professional association. We never ended our friendship."
Connelly's next two plays, The Wisdom Tooth (1926) and The Wild Man of Borneo (1927) did not have long runs. Connelly then adapted Ol' Man Adam an' His Chillun (1928), a collection of stories written by Roark Bradford, for the theatre. The first production of The Green Pastures took place at the Mansfield Theatre on 26th February, 1930. It featured numerous African American spirituals arranged by Hall Johnson and performed by the Hall Johnson Choir. The musical, which had a run of 640 performances, was the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1930.
Other plays by Connelly included Having Wonderful Time (1937), The Two Bouquets (1938), Everywhere I Roam (1938), The Happiest Days (1939), The Flowers of Virtue (1942), Our Town (1944), Hope for the Best (1945), Sleepy Hollow (1948), A Story for Strangers (1948), The Solid Gold Cadillac (1953) and Tall Story (1959).
Marc Connelly died on 21st December 1980.
The world in which we moved was small, but it was churning with a dynamic group of young people who included Robert C. Benchley, Robert S. Sherwood, Ring Lardner, Dorothy Parker, Franklin. P. Adams, Heywood, Broun, Edna Ferber, Alice Duer Miller, Harold Ross, Jane Grant, Frank Sullivan, and Alexander Woollcott. We were together constantly. One of the habitual meeting places was the large studio of New York's preeminent magazine illustrator, Marjorie Moran McMein, of Muncie, Indiana. On the advice of a nurnerologist, she concocted a new first name when she became a student at the Chicago Art Institute. Neysa McMein. Neysa's studio on the northeast corner of Sixth Avenue and Fifty-seventh Street was crowded all day by friends who played games and chatted with their startlingly beautiful young hostess as one pretty girl model after another posed for the pastel head drawings that would soon delight the eyes of America on the covers of such periodicals as the Ladies' Home
Journal, Cosmopolitan, The American and The Saturday Evening Post.
At times every newsstand sparkled with half a dozen of Neysa's beauties. Any afternoon at her studio you might encounter Jascha Heifetz, the violin prodigy, now grown up and beginning his adult career; Arthur Samuels, composer and wit who was soon to collaborate with Fritz Kreisler on the melodious operetta Apple Blossoms and a few years later became managing editor of The New Yorker; Janet Flanner, blazing with personality, later, over several decades, a journalistic legend as Genet, Paris correspondent of The New Yorker; and John Peter Toohey, a gentle free-lance press agent, deeply loved by everyone who ever crossed his path. Toohey wrote stories for The Saturday Evening Post and collaborated on a successful comedy entitled Swiftly. John was the acknowledged founder of the Thanatopsis Inside Straight Literary and Chowder Club and a target of many harmless practical jokes. One would also see Sally Farnham, the sculptress, whose studio was in the same building. Today one of her great works stands almost around the corner from her old workshop. It is the heroic equestrian statue of Simon Bolivar at the Sixth Avenue entrance to Central Park. Another habituee was the most photographed society beauty of that time, the beautiful Julia Hoyt. Among Neysa's noteworthy full-figure portraits in oil were those of Julia and Janet Flanner.
There was always a cluster of young actresses. Margalo and Ruth Gillmore, Winifred Lenihan, Tallulah Bankhead, Myra Hampton, and Lenore Ulric. Despite the near-bedlam about her, Neysa's eyes never left her work. At the end of a day and the completion of another delicately executed magazine cover, Neysa's smock and face would be smeared with chalk and paint. She would disappear and five minutes later rejoin us fresh as a flower, ready to listen, entertain, and be entertained. After five o'clock the big studio would be crowded with her cronies, many engaged in daily sessions of poker, crap, backgammon, and cribbage. Samuels or someone else would be at the piano.
Kaufman and Connelly did very well. As collaborating playwrights, Connelly was a whimsical optimist and Kaufman was the cynical pessimist.
A perfect example of their teamwork was an incident in New Haven in 1922, following the opening of their fourth play, Merton of the Movies. At the first reading in New York, the actors had sat in the chillness of an unheated theatre, their chairs placed on the stage so that they faced the authors, the producer, the director, and the darkened footlights. The murkiness of the empty theatre, scarcely lit by a single work light, brightened noticeably when Glenn Hunter read a line that seemed so hilarious the entire cast broke up with laughter. During every rehearsal, the company fell apart, the stage manager dropped his prompt book; it was the laugh line of the play. But in New Haven, with an audience out front, Glenn Hunter uncorked the line and there was silence.
Later in the hotel, Kaufman began, "Now about that line, Marc."
"It's the best line in the show," Connelly said.
"Yes," said Kaufman, "the only thing is that it doesn't go." "Now let me tell you why it's funny, George."
And Connelly launched into the comedic situation preceding the line. "She knows the fellow when he comes in. So when he says his line, she knows he's lying and the audience knows it, and when she says her line, his line has to work."
Kaufman listened patiently, "Then, what is your conclusion, Marc?"
"I think it's a very funny line."
So they tried it the next night. Nothing. At the matinee, still nothing. Following each performance,
Connelly would explain why it was a great line.
After listening to six explanations, Kaufman finally said, "Well, Marc, there's only one thing we can do."
"We've got to call the audience in tomorrow morning for a ten o'clock rehearsal."