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Mon, 06.17.1895

William J. Rapp, Playwright born

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*William Rapp was born on this date in 1895. He was a white-American playwright, author, and news writer.   

Born in NYC, William Jourdan Rapp was the son of a cigar manufacturer and merchant.  He graduated from Cornell, Class of 1917, and volunteered for Army service. Rapp served in France and remained in Europe until 1924.  He worked in public service positions, such as a YMCA camp in Greece, as director of a camp for homeless "wild" boys on the Black Sea in Turkey, and for a year as a lecturer at the University of Athens.  

On returning to the US in 1925, Rapp became a free-lance feature writer during the Harlem Renaissance for New York newspapers, especially the Times. That year his first play, Osman Pasha, was published. Though almost unactable, the play sold very well. In the same period, he published two books, When I Was a Boy in Turkey and Looking Down from Olympus.  Five of Rapp's plays were produced in New York: Whirlpool, Hilda Cassidy; Substitute for Murder; Holmes of Baker Street; and Harlem. Harlem was written in collaboration with Wallace Thurman. It featured in its cast the first wife of Adam Clayton Powell Sr. With Thurman, Rapp also wrote Jeremiah the Magnificent, a play about Marcus Garvey, and Black Mecca, both unproduced.

With another Harlem writer, Hughes Allison, Rapp wrote a fictionalized biography of jazz band leader Cab Calloway.  In 1926, Rapp became associated with McFadden Publications, first as co-editor of American Monthly, then as editor of True Story, a position he held for sixteen years. True Story was for many years the "greatest mass magazine in history, selling more copies for more money than any predecessor or competitor." In addition to editing, Rapp directed advertising promotion and is credited with creating "the first great emotional radio program, Mary and Bob." Rapp was connected with twenty-three radio programs as a consultant, author, creator, or producer.

These included: the Court of Human Relations, Big Sister; Aunt Jenny; Betty and Bob; Billy and Betty; Campbell Playhouse; and Central City. Rapp's wife Virginia was closely associated with Rapp in his radio and magazine productions.  Rapp was a long-time partner in the C.D. Morris organization, a group active in radio production, magazine, church promotion, and public relations. William Rapp died in 1942.  

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