Casual Affairs

The Life and Fiction of Sally Benson

By Maryellen V. Keefe

Subjects: Biography, Women's Studies
Series: Excelsior Editions
Imprint: Excelsior Editions
Paperback : 9781438450896, 468 pages, June 2014

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Table of contents

Part I
1. The Writer’s Origins: St. Louis, Missouri—The Smith Family Album—1909
2. Manhattan Daze: 1909–1912
3. Summer of Discontent: 1912
4. Houston: 1912–1913
5. Rising Spirits: Home Again—1913–1915
6. A World at War: Arms and the Men—Prelude to a Marriage—1915–1918
7. Wedding Bells: 1919–1922
8. Second Honeymoon: 1922
9. Back to Reality: 1922–1926
Part II
10. A Wider World Beckons: The First Casual Affair—1927
11. Climbing the Career Ladder: Benson at The New Yorker—1928–1929
12. Public Success and Private Sorrow: 1930–1931
13. The Writer Makes Strides: 1932–1933
14. Refining Her Vision: 1933–1934
15. Perfecting Her Craft: 1934–1935
16. Affairs, Financial and Other: 1936
17. Taking Charge and Branching Out: 1937
18. Becoming an Entrepreneur: 1938
19. A World at War, Turmoil at Home: 1939–1940
20. Behind the Scene: 1940
21. Affairs, Family and Other: 1941
Part III
22. Becoming a Celebrity: 1942
23. The War Escalates at Home and Abroad: 1942
24. The World at War, Babe and Ham: 1943
25. Meet Me in St. Louis—the Fiction, the Sources—a Look Back: 1941–1942
26. The Making of Meet Me in St. Louis: 1943–1944
27. Hollywood, Pinewood, Broadway, and Beyond: 1947–1957
Appendix A. Genealogical Guide
Appendix B. The Smiths: A Family History

Follows the life and career of Sally Benson, acclaimed writer of New Yorker fiction and Hollywood screenplays.


In Casual Affairs, Maryellen V. Keefe vividly follows the life and career of Sally Benson, the New Yorker writer remembered by generations of moviegoers for Meet Me in St. Louis, the film that brought her family to life. Keefe traces Benson's life from her childhood in St. Louis to marriage and motherhood to her award-winning fiction career and her success as a Hollywood screenwriter. Through the Jazz Age and into the 1930s and '40s, Benson negotiated the transition from domesticity to the marketplace, becoming a full-fledged career woman while juggling her responsibilities as a wife and mother and indulging in several "quiet little affairs. " She succeeded early in a profession dominated by men, forging her way in a largely male world and winning the support and friendship of colleagues and editors. Benson established herself as a writer known for brutally honest portraits of middle-class women much like herself.

Maryellen V. Keefe is Associate Professor of English at SUNY Maritime College and the author of St. Angela Merici: Leading People to God.


"Impeccably researched and highly entertaining, this long-awaited biography of Sally Benson will find an important place in the history of American theater, film, and belles lettres. " — Donald Spoto, biographer of Alfred Hitchcock, Tennessee Williams, Laurence Olivier, and others

"Finally a biographer capable of bringing the brilliant and outrageous Sally Benson to life! And what a life it was for a woman, who began a long career writing for the New Yorker in 1929 and Hollywood in the forties. Keefe's vivid account, which draws on family papers as it traces Benson's personal and professional ups and downs, is also the story of a generation of young women eager to balance work and family. Readers who know Benson primarily from the film Meet Me in St. Louis will come to know her as a stylist every bit as talented as Dorothy Parker and with the same wonderful flair. " — Susan Goodman, author of Republic of Words: The Atlantic Monthly and Its Writers, 1857–1925