Robert Ardrey

Robert Ardrey

Robert Ardrey (b. October 16, 1908, Chicago, Illinois—d. January 14, 1980, South Africa) was an American playwright and screenwriter who returned to his academic training in anthropology and the behavioral sciences in the 1950s.cite web |url= |title= Finding Aid for the Robert Ardrey Papers, 1935-1960 |format= html |work= Online Archive of California ] cite news |url= |title= Robert Ardrey |author= Bruce Eder |format= html |work= Allmovie |publisher= "The New York Times" |quote= Equally comfortable dealing with literary editors such as Bennett Cerf or moguls like Darryl F. Zanuck, he also retained his credibility in the intellectual realm by authoring texts on anthropology, history, and sociology that remain widely respected decades after their publication. The widening dates between Ardrey's film projects came as a result of his increasing literary activity, as he began generating screenplays and novels on his own in the early '50s and subsequently returned to his academic training in anthropology and the behavioral sciences. From the end of the 1950s, he kept his oar in both fields, film and academia, and occupied a virtually unique position in the Hollywood pecking order because of his dual career. In 1962, he took on the daunting task of turning the World War I-era novel "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" into relevant entertainment for the early '60s, authoring the screenplay for Vincente Minnelli's gargantuan 1962 all-star release. ]

"African Genesis" and "The Territorial Imperative", two of Robert Ardrey's most widely read works, as well as Desmond Morris's "The Naked Ape" (1967), were key elements in the public discourse of the 1960s which challenged earlier anthropological assumptions. Ardrey's ideas notably influenced Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick in the development of ,cite web |url= |title= 2001 Diary (excerpts) |author= Arthur C. Clarke |work= The Lost Worlds of 2001 |publisher= Kubrick Site |date= New American Library, 1972 |quote= ] cite web |url= |title= Letter to the editor |author= Stanley Kubrick |work= The New York Times |publisher= Kubrick Site |date= 27 February 1972 |quote= ] cite web |url= |title= Strange Odyssey: From Dart to Ardrey to Kubrick and Clarke |author= Richard D. Erlich et al |work= English studies/Film theory course, Science fiction and Film |publisher= Miami University |date= 1997-2005 |quote= ] cite web |url= |title= "Moonwatcher's Memoir: A Diary of 2001, a Space Odyssey" |author= Daniel Richter |publisher= New York: Carroll & Graf. ASIN|078671073X. ISBN 978-0786710737 |date= 2002 |quote= …the longest flash forward in the history of movies: three million years, from bone club to artificial satellite, in a twenty-fourth of a second. (From the [ Foreword] by Arthur C. Clarke.) ] as well as Sam Peckinpah, to whom Strother Martin gave copies of two of Ardrey's books.cite web |url=,9171,879005,00.html |title= Peckinpah: Primitive Horror |author= |work= Time |date= 20 December 1971 |quote= ] David Weddle. "If They Move . . . Kill 'Em!: The Life and TImes of Sam Peckinpah" (p. 396). 1994 first hardcover edition: Grove Press, ISBN 0-8021-3776-8, ASIN|0802137768.] cite web |url= |title= Peckinpah's West vs. Mann's Metropolis |author= Paul Cremean |work= Grover Watrous' Golden Egg |date= 23 May 2006 |quote= Drawing heavily from the work of Robert Ardrey, controversial sociologist and author of ‘African Genesis’ and ‘The Territorial Imperative,’ Peckinpah ascribed to the belief that man is by nature territorial, brutal and elementally animal. ] Garner Simmons. "Peckinpah: A Portrait in Montage" (p. 128). 1982 first edition: University of Texas Press, ISBN 0-29276-493-6, ASIN|0292764936. 2004 paperback edition: Limelight, ISBN 978-0879102739, ASIN|087910273X.] Marshall Fine. "Bloody Sam: The Life and Films of Sam Peckinpah." 1991 first hardcover edition: Dutton Books, ISBN 155611236X, ISBN 978-1556112362. 2006 paperback edition: Miramax Books, ISBN 1-40135-972-8, ISBN 978-1401359720.]


As a science writer for the informed non-specialist reader in paleoanthropology, which encompasses anthropology, ethology, paleontology and human evolution, Robert Ardrey was among the proponents of the hunting hypothesis and the killer ape theory.

Ardrey postulated that precursors of Australopithecus survived millions of years of drought in the Miocene and Pliocene epochs, as the savannah spread and the forests shrank, by adapting the hunting ways of carnivorous species. Changes in survival techniques and social organisation gradually differentiated pre-humans from other primates. Concomitant changes in diet potentiated unique developments in the human brain.

The killer ape theory posits that aggression, a vital factor in hunting prey for food, was a fundamental characteristic which distinguished prehuman ancestors from other primates.

These themes have also been investigated in academia by, among others:
* Konrad Lorenz: "On Aggression" (1966)
* University of Chicago "Man the Hunter" symposium (1966): Richard B. Lee and Irven DeVore , eds., "Man the Hunter: Symposium on Man the Hunter", University of Chicago. Chicago: Aldine Publishing.
* Sherwood Washburn and Chet Lancaster: "Man the Hunter" (1968). ( [ Washburn's students] Lee and DeVore organised the1966 Chicago conference.)
* Craig Stanford: "The Hunting Apes: Meat Eating and the Origins of Human Behavior", Princeton University Press (2001).
* Erich Fromm: "The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness" (1973)
* Matt Cartmill: "A View to a Death in the Morning: Hunting and Nature Through History" (1996)


Some of the scientists whose research particularly informed Robert Ardrey's scientific investigations, and with several of whom Ardrey consulted at length while developing his four major works in Africa from the 1940s through the 1970s, include:
* Warder Clyde Allee
* Charles Kimberlin Brain
* Robert Broom
* Helmut Buechner
* Clarence Ray Carpenter
* Raymond Dart
* Eliot Howard
* James Kitching
* Louis Leakey
* Eugene Marais
* Kenneth Oakley


* "World's Beginning" (1944) (Cited in Everett F. Bleiler's "The Checklist of Fantastic Literature," 1948.)
* "The Brotherhood of Fear" (1952)

* "African Genesis: A Personal Investigation into the Animal Origins and Nature of Man" (1961)
* "The Territorial Imperative: A Personal Inquiry into the Animal Origins of Property and Nations" (1966) []
* "The Social Contract: A Personal Inquiry into the Evolutionary Sources of Order and Disorder" (1970) []
* "The Hunting Hypothesis: A Personal Conclusion Concerning the Evolutionary Nature of Man" (1976)
* "Aggression and Violence in Man: A Dialogue Between Dr Louis Leakey and Mr Robert Ardrey" (1971) ISBN 0-03649-184-6.


* "Star Spangled" (1936)
* "Casey Jones" (1938)
* "God and Texas" (1938)
* "How To Get Tough About It" (1938)
* "Thunder Rock" (1939) (filmed in 1942 in the UK, released 1944 in the US)
* "Jeb" (1946)
* "Sing Me No Lullaby" (1954)
*"Shadow Of Heroes" (1958) (produced in London as "Stone and Star")


* "They Knew What They Wanted" (1940)cite web |url= |title= Robert Ardrey (10/16/1908 - 1/14/1980) Other Credits |format= html |work= AMC (TV network) website |quote= ]
* "A Lady Takes a Chance" (1943)
* "The Green Years" (1946)
* "Song of Love" (1947)
* "The Three Musketeers" (1948)
* "Madame Bovary" (1949)
* "The Secret Garden" (1949)
* "The Schumann Story" (1950) short film adaptation [imdb title|0438971|The Schumann Story (1950)] of "Song of Love"
* "The Adventures of Quentin Durward" (1955)
* "The Power and the Prize" (1956)
* "The Wonderful Country" (1959)
* "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" (1962)
* "Khartoum" (1966)cite web |url= |title= Robert Ardrey Filmography |format= html |work= |quote= Most Worked With: 1. Peter Ustinov 2. Pandro S. Berman 3. Raoul Walsh 4. Van Heflin 5. Angela Lansbury 6. Christopher Kent 7. Frank Allenby 8. Gene Kelly 9. George Sidney 10. Gladys Cooper ] Nominated for an Academy Award for Writing Original Screenplay
* "The Animal Within" (1975) documentary


* 1935: Sergel Drama prize.
* 1937: Guggenheim fellowship.
* 1940: Sidney Howard Memorial prize.
* 1961: Theresa Helburn memorial award.
* 1963: Willkie Brothers grant for anthropology.
* Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature


Robert Ardrey was the son of Robert Leslie Ardrey, an editor and publisher, and the former Marie Haswell. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Chicago, where his mentor was Thornton Wilder. Ardrey was married to Helen Johnson, whom he met at the University, from 1938 until they divorced in 1960. They had two sons, Ross and Daniel. Ardrey married the South African stage actress Berdine Grunewald, who later illustrated his books, in 1960.

The Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center in the Mugar Memorial Library at Boston University currently houses the Robert Ardrey Collection.cite web |url= |title= Ardrey, Robert |author= |work= Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center (HGARC), Mugar Memorial Library, Boston University |quote= Also included in the collection is Ardrey’s last manuscript, "The Education of Robert Ardrey: An Autobiography" ("ca." 1980), edited and prefaced by Ardrey’s son, Daniel Ardrey. ]


External links

* [ on Robert Ardrey.]

;Plays and screenplays
* [ Synopses] of "Thunder Rock" and "Sing Me No Lullaby."

* [ "The First Runner's High: Jogging Separated Humans From Apes."] Robert Roy Britt, "LiveScience," November 2004 (aspects of Miocene/Pliocene transition - from forest to savannah - central to Ardrey's theses).
* [ "Exploring Our Basic Human Nature: Are Humans Inherently Violent?"] Robert W. Sussman, "Anthro Notes: National Museum of Natural History Bulletin for Teachers", Vol. 19 No. 3, Fall 1997.
* [ Excerpts from "African Genesis".]
* [ "The Social Contract: A Personal Inquiry into the Evolutionary Sources of Order and Disorder."]

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  • Thunder Rock (play) — Thunder Rock is a 1939 play by Robert Ardrey.In the United States, Thunder Rock was produced by the Group Theater and opened 14 November 1939 and closed three weeks later. Lee J. Cobb, Frances Farmer, and Luther Adler were among the cast directed …   Wikipedia

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