Riggs was born on a farm near Claremore, Oklahoma. His mother was 1/8 Cherokee, and when he was two years old, his mother secured his Cherokee allotment for him. He was able to draw on his allotment to help support his writing.
He was educated at the Eastern University Preparatory School in Claremore, Oklahoma, starting in 1912. Riggs graduated from high school in 1917, and travelled to Chicago and New York. He worked for the Adams Express Company in Chicago, wrote for the Wall Street Journal, sold books at Macy's and swept out Wall Street offices. Returning to Oklahoma in 1919, he wrote for the Oil and Gas Journal. Travelling to Los Angeles, Riggs worked as an extra in the theatre, and a copyeditor at the Los Angeles Times, which published his first poem. Riggs entered the University of Oklahoma in 1920, and taught English there from 1922–1923. However, Riggs became ill with tuberculosis during his senior year and did not graduate. Riggs then moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, to improve his health and soon joined a group of artists. However, in 1926 he moved back to New York, hoping to work in the Broadway theatres.
His first major production was a one-act play, Knives from Syria, which was produced by the Santa Fe Players in 1925. He began teaching at the Lewis Institute, Chicago, while continuing to write. In 1928 he received a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship and travelled to Europe. Riggs began writing his most famous play, Green Grow the Lilacs in the Café Les Deux Magots on the Left Bank in Paris. He completed this play five months later in Cagnes-sur-Mer, in Southern France.
He then lived in Santa Fe, Los Angeles, and New York, and was a screenwriter for Paramount and Universal Studios. Riggs was homosexual and was often a non-romantic escort for Hollywood actresses including Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.
After serving in the military 1942–44 he worked on an historical drama for Western Reserve University, published a short story, "Eben, The Hound, and the Hare" (1952), and worked on a novel, The Affair at Easter, set in Oklahoma. He moved to Shelter Island, New York after he started receiving a steady income when Green Grow The Lilacs was adapted into the landmark musical Oklahoma! in 1943.
Death and legacy
Selected plays include:
- Knives from Syria (premiered 1925, published 1927)
- Big Lake (premiered 1927, published 1927)
- Sump'n Like Wings (premiered 1931, published 1928)
- A Lantern to See By (premiered 1925, published 1928)
- Rancor (premiered 1928)
- Roadside (premiered 1930, published 1930)
- Green Grow the Lilacs (premiered 1931, published 1931)
- The Cherokee Night (premiered 1932, published 1936)
- More Sky (1934)
- Russet Mantle (1936)
- A Year of Pilar (1938)
- A World Elsewhere (1939)
- The Cream in the Well (1940)
- Dark Encounter (1944)
- Toward the Western Sky (premiered 1951)
His first play was Cuckoo in 1920, a farce about college fraternities that was performed at the University of Oklahoma in the spring of 1921. The Theatre Guild produced his best-known play, Green Grow The Lilacs, on Broadway in 1931, where it ran for 64 performances. The musical Oklahoma!, based on Riggs' play, opened on Broadway on March 31, 1943, and ran until May 29, 1948 for 2,212 performances.
- The Siren Song (1930)
- Beyond Victory (1931, uncredited)
- Laughing Boy (1934, uncredited)
- Stingaree (1934)
- Family Man (1934)
- Andrew's Harvest (1934)
- A Wicked Woman (1934, uncredited)
- The Garden of Allah (1936)
- The Plainsman (1936)
- Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942)
- Destination Unknown (1942)
- Madame Spy (1942)
- Sherlock Holmes in Washington (1943)
- Lynn Riggs: An Oklahoma Treasure Archived 2011-10-04 at the Wayback Machine, Friends of Libraries in Oklahoma Archived 2011-10-04 at the Wayback Machine
- Lynn Riggs Archived 2009-04-13 at the Wayback Machine, Mary Hays Marable and Elaine Boylan, pages 93–96 of A Handbook of Oklahoma Writers, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Oklahoma, 1939, ASIN B0006AONUW .
- "Broadway's Forgotten Man". Retrieved October 16, 2017.
- "Oklahoma Hall of Fame". Retrieved November 16, 2012.
- "Hall of Great Westerners". National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. Retrieved May 4, 2014.
- Information from: Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book And Manuscript Library, Yale Collection Of American Literature, Lynn Riggs Papers, New Haven, CT, November, 1993 Last Updated: February 2000
- The Lynn Riggs Memorial Archived 2012-08-14 at the Wayback Machine webpage
- Corinne P. Sze (February 12, 1988). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Camino del Monte Sol Historic District". National Park Service. Retrieved July 8, 2019. With accompanying 30 photos
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lynn Riggs.|
- Lynn Riggs Papers. Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.
- Lynn Riggs Papers. Department of Special Collections, McFarlin Library, The University of Tulsa.
- Riggs bio on R&H Theatricals site
- Lynn Riggs Memorial Website
- Lynn Riggs at Find a Grave
- Photo of Lynn Riggs
- Lynn Riggs on IMDb
- Lynn Riggs at the Internet Broadway Database
- Lynn Riggs at Internet Off-Broadway Database