John McCarten

John McCarten (September 10, 1911 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania September 25, 1974 in New York City) was an American writer who contributed about 1,000 pieces for The New Yorker, serving as the magazine's film critic from 1945 to 1960 and Broadway theatre critic from 1960 to 1967.[1][2]

McCarten was born in Philadelphia to an Irish-American family. After serving in the Merchant Marine he started writing for American Mercury, Fortune and Time during the 1930s.[1] In 1934 he joined The New Yorker and began contributing satirical short stories and irreverent profiles.[1][2] He became the magazine's regular film critic in 1945, employing a writing style that tended to be terse and was often condescending.[2][3] He gained a reputation as something of a nemesis of Alfred Hitchcock in particular, whose films McCarten regularly panned.[4] The screenplay for the 1956 British romantic comedy film The Silken Affair was adapted from an idea by McCarten.[5]

In 1960 McCarten switched to theatre criticism, where he was no less tough; on one occasion the theatrical producer David Merrick had McCarten barred from the opening night of Do Re Mi.[2]

In July 1967 McCarten suddenly quit reviewing and moved to Ireland.[1] The following year he submitted the first of his "Irish Sketches", a series of light pieces about Irish art and culture that ran in The New Yorker between February 24, 1968 and November 20, 1971.[1]

John McCarten died of cancer at the age of 63. He married three times and had two sons.[1][2] The New Yorker's obituary remembered him as "a witty writer, whose sharpest weapon was mockery. Yet, given the force of the opinions he would pronounce in conversation, one marvelled to observe his comparative gentleness in print. For, much as he might deplore certain human failings, he could never bear to injure those who embodied them. He learned to tell the truth about people in such a way that, far from feeling savaged, they felt praised."[6]


  1. Nerney, Brian. "John McCarten's 'Irish Sketches': The New Yorker's 'Other Ireland' in the Early Years of the Troubles, 1968-1974". Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
  2. Whitman, Alden (September 26, 1974). "John McCarten, 63, Writer and Critic". The New York Times: 32.
  3. Studlar, Gaylyn; Bernstein, Matthew (2001). John Ford Made Westerns: Filming the Legend in the Sound Era. Indiana University Press. p. 233.
  4. Kapsis, Robert E. (1992). Hitchcock: The Making of a Reputation. University of Chicago Press. p. 54. ISBN 9780226424897.
  5. "Now It's The Stocking Game". The Sydney Morning Herald: B7. February 20, 1958.
  6. "John McCarten". The New Yorker. New York: 179. October 7, 1974.
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