Benefield, Barry (1877-1971) by Black, Richard

(John) Barry Benefield A journalist, short story writer, and novelist, was born in the east Texas town of Jefferson. There he worked in his father’s wagonyard and feed store where he first trained his sharp powers of observation on the travelers who passed through on their way west. As a youth, his mother encouraged him to translate his character studies into stories and the majority of his writing is informed by his experience in Texas. John Barry Benefield He attended the University of Texas from 1898-1902, where he served as class historian and editor-in-chief of the while winning the short-story prize in 1901. After graduation, Benefield signed on as a journalist for the for a year before taking his journalistic skills to in 1904, where he worked as a reporter for the next fifty years. During World War I, he also worked as an advertising writer and later as a book editor for the Century Company. University of Texas Magazine Cactus Dallas Morning News The New York Times His short fiction appeared in such magazines as , , , , , and . Most of his New York-based stories were characterized as yet the local-color stories set in the Caddo Lake area around Jefferson exhibited serious treatment of headier, more tragic subjects (). Like , Benefield constructed a fictionalized of his own native soil, rechristening Jefferson, Texas as Crebillon, Louisiana so that his readers would not confuse his East Texas setting with the wild-west Texas images of cowboys and cattle. Predating the work of , Benefield’s stories examine issues like the economic decline of the South and the tragic fallout of miscegenation, as in his story which tells the story of a young African-American woman who is run out of town by the white men responsible for raping and impregnating her. Such stories drew praise from and , the editor of the popular series and the . O’Brien ranked the stories in Benefield’s 1926 collection alongside the work of , and as of the decade’s short fiction. Century Collier’s Scribner’s The Smart Set The Woman’s Home Companion The Ladies’ Home Journal slick, human interest stuff, Hatley 63 William Faulkner postage stamp Faulkner Simply Sugar Pie, William Rose Benét Edward J. O’Brien Best Short Stories Yearbook of the American Short Story Short Turns Sherwood Anderson Ernest Hemingway Manuel Komroff >the most distinguished Three of Benefield’s novels made the bestseller list; two were adapted as motion pictures. His first novel, was published in 1925 and appeared as the 1926 Fox film, . His story was adapted as , now remembered as ’s second movie. And , Benefield’s novel about a woman who runs an orphanage against tough odds, appeared as a feature film in 1936 and garnered a Best Actress Oscar nomination for in the title role. (Perhaps this film’s greatest legacy, however, is as the inspiration for the 1938 vehicle, .) The Chicken Wagon Family The Dixie Merchant Eddie and the Archangel Mike Texas, Brooklyn and Heaven Audie Murphy Valiant is the Word for Carrie Gladys George Three Stooges Violent is the Word for Curly Following the death of his wife in 1960, Benefield moved from New York back to Texas and lived with his sister in his childhood home. He died in Jefferson in 1971. —Richard Black Selected Works by Barry Benefield . New York: The Century Company, 1926. Short Turns 55.4 (April 1914): 447-453. Soldiers of Time. Scribner’s Magazine 56.4 (October 1914): 531-541. Wind in the Pines. Scribner’s Magazine Further Reading The Texas State Historical Association. Benefield, John Barry. The Handbook of Texas Online. 21 (1968): 63-70. Hatley, Donald W. Folklore in the Fiction of Barry Benefield. Mississippi Quarterly

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