Return to search results

Name Johnson, Nora
Pseudonym
Born / Died 1933–
Scope

The Nora Johnson collection consists of manuscripts, printed material, subject files, audio, and correspondence.

Manuscripts by Johnson in the collection include The World of Henry Orient (novel, Little, Brown, 1958); A Step Beyond Innocence (novel, Little, Brown, 1961); Loveletter in the Dead-Letter Office (Delacorte, 1966); Flashback: Nora Johnson on Nunnally Johnson (Doubleday, 1979); You Can Go Home Again: An Intimate Journey (Doubleday, 1982); The Two of Us (Simon and Schuster, 1984); Tender Offer (Simon and Schuster, 1985); Uncharted Places (Simon and Schuster, 1988); Perfect Together (E.P. Dutton, 1991); and some unpublished material, including the book-length works Hollywood Ghosts and The Unloved City .

Printed material in the collection includes newspaper clippings and book excerpts regarding Nunnally Johnson (1986), a program for a tribute to Nunnally Johnson by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (1986), and clippings regarding The World of Henry Orient and Henry Sweet Henry (includes a program for a performance of the latter). Also present are proofs of some of the books listed above.

Subject files in the collection consist of material grouped around a particular topic and arranged by Johnson. Subjects include reviews and clippings regarding Loveletter in the Dead-Letter Office and Flashback ; correspondence regarding an interview; items regarding Nunnally Johnson's funeral; and transcripts of audio interviews conducted as part of the "Oral History of the Motion Picture" project.

Audio recordings in the collection consist of thirty-seven cassette recordings, probably interviews for the "Oral History of the Motion Picture" project, the transcripts of which are mentioned above.

Correspondence in the collection primarily consists of personal (and some professional) letters between Nora and Nunnally Johnson from the 1960s. Included are the contract for Henry Sweet Henry, manuscripts, financial material, and scene designs. Also present are some other professional letters.

Biography

Novelist, memoirist, and author of numerous magazine essays and short stories, Nora Johnson (1933- ) is best known for turning personal reminiscences into works of great humor, pathos, and intelligence. Many of Johnson's books were inspired by her celebrity-filled, bi-coastal upbringing with and without her famous film writer/director father, Nunnally Johnson. The two collaborated on the screenplay for the movie based on Nora's first and very successful novel, The World of Henry Orient (1958), and she would later write his biography, Flashback: Nora Johnson on Nunnally Johnson (1979).

Nora Johnson was born in Beverly Hills, California in 1933. Her parents, Nunnally Johnson and the former Marion Byrnes, met as fellow newspaper writers on the Brooklyn Daily Eagle in New York, and had recently moved west for her father’s budding career as a screenwriter. He had great success at Darryl F. Zanuck's 20th Century Pictures, with Nora soon playing on studio back lots and attending birthday parties with Shirley Temple.

When filming started on Nunnally's screenplay for The Grapes of Wrath (1940), he began an affair with the film's ingenue Dorris Bowdon (soon to become his third wife). Nora's mother moved back to New York with her daughter, the nanny, and the family chauffeur. Later described by Nora as glamorous but unsettled, Marion lavishly decorated their Upper East Side apartment and hosted cocktail parties for New York's bohemian literary set. At age 7, Nora started a decade of transcontinental travel, spending the school year with her socialite mother in New York and summers with her newly married father in star-studded Hollywood. She spent so much time on four-day cross-country train trips that she came to know the porters by name. There would also be vacations in London, Paris and Berlin. Johnson wrote two well-reviewed memoirs drawing on these years - You Can Go Home Again: An Intimate Journey (1982) and Coast to Coast: A Family Romance (2004).

Johnson was educated at three single-sex institutions, The Brearley School in New York, Abbot Academy in Andover, Massachusetts and Smith College. She wrote both fictional and non-fictional accounts of her school days, beginning with the comedic novel The World of Henry Orient published in 1958. Semi-autobiographical, the story features two New York teenage girls idolizing and trailing after an eccentric pianist, whom Johnson based on the charismatic Oscar Levant. The book was a big success, and co-writing the adapted film screenplay with her father was icing on the cake. Starring Peter Sellers and Angela Lansbury, the movie was also a hit. (A Broadway musical adaptation by her father, Henry, Sweet Henry (1967), starring Don Ameche, closed quickly.)

Johnson's years at Smith inspired several works, beginning with an influential magazine article titled "Sex and the College Girl," published in The Atlantic Monthly in 1957. Her novel A Step Beyond Innocence (1961) was a fictionalized version of her college experience, which she discussed more openly in her memoir Coast to Coast, including recollections of writer/poet Sylvia Plath, a Smith classmate.

Throughout her career, Johnson has written articles, essays, and short stories for numerous magazines and newspapers, such as The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times. She is also a frequent contributor to The New York Times Book Review.

In 1974, Johnson co-authored Pat Loud: A Woman's Story with Loud, whose marriage, subsequent divorce, and gay son were publicized in a televised serial documentary An American Family (1973), the precursor of contemporary "reality television."

Johnson's books You Can Go Home Again: An Intimate Journey (1982) and The Two of Us (1984), about twins living on opposite coasts in New York and Hollywood, were on The New York Times Best Books of the Year lists. Her short story "The Jungle of Injustice," published in The Atlantic Monthly in 1980, won an O. Henry Award.

Nora Johnson was married and divorced twice, and had four children. She currently lives and works in New York City.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Return to search results