William McDermott - "Cleveland Plain Dealer" Drama Critic

10311 Lake Shore Boulevard

William F. McDermott began a newspaper career on the Indianapolis News in 1914 and, within three years, became an editorial writer and drama reviewer. Acting on the advice of numerous New York theatrical personalities, editor Erie C. Hopwood brought McDermott to Cleveland as a drama critic of the Plain Dealer in 1921.

In addition to his customary critical trips to New York, McDermott persuaded the Plain Dealer to send him on annual tours of the European theatrical capitals, from where he sent back interviews with such luminaries as Somerset Maugham and Ferenc Molnar and accounts of visits to Max Reinhardt’s castle and Russian production of Hamlet. He was later hailed by Newsweek Magazine as one of the nation’s most esteemed drama critics.

With the decline of the legitimate stage in Cleveland after the 1930s, McDermott began writing columns on general topics. He covered the Detroit sit-down strikes of 1937, the Spanish Civil War, and during World War II, the Italian front, and subsequently the formation of the United Nations. Following the war, McDermott took a strong stand against local censorship, which won the notice of Newsweek and voiced tentative concerns over the postwar growth of presidential power.

William McDermott

After divorcing his first wife, Georgie Richards, in 1921, McDermott married Eva Pace in 1938 bringing the Golden Age to Haysmar. They were an extraordinary couple whose mutual love of life and for each other added a richness to their home.   Hailed by “Newsweek” as one of the nation’s most esteemed drama critics, “Mac” knew almost everyone who was anyone in the theater world. He and Eva entertained at their home the likes of Helen Hayes, Charles Laughton, Tallulah Bankhead, John Barrymore, Alfred Lunt, Lynn Fontanne, Richard Rodgers, and Oscar Hammerstein. Katherine Hepburn played tennis on the court in the front yard.

In 1950 William underwent a series of operations and was unable to attend the opening night of a new play. The following day, the stars of the show, including Sir Cedric Hardwicke and famed stage actress Katharine Cornell, arrived and put on a performance in his Bratenahl living room.

William F. McDermott was born on February 17, 1891, in Indianapolis, Indiana to John and Elizabeth McDermott. He graduated from Butler College and married Georgie Richards in May 1910. They had a daughter, Louise.

McDermott died of cancer at his Bratenahl home on November 16, 1958. Eva died on March 29, 1985. Both are buried in Lake View Cemetery.