Morrie Ryskind (born October 20, 1895, New York City — died August 24, 1985, Washington, D.C.) was an American dramatist, lyricist and writer of theatrical productions and motion pictures, who became a conservative political activist later in life.
Ryskind attended Columbia University but was suspended shortly before he was due to graduate after he called university president Nicholas Murray Butler "Czar Nicholas" in the pages of the humor magazine Jester in 1917. Ryskind was criticizing Butler for refusing to allow Count Nikolai Tolstoy, nephew of Leo Tolstoy, to speak on campus.
From 1927 to 1945, Ryskind was author of numerous scripts and musical lyrics for Broadway theatrical productions and Hollywood motion pictures, and, later, directed a number of such productions, as well. He collaborated with George S. Kaufman on several Broadway hits. In 1933, he earned the Pulitzer Prize (receiving the prize from the same Nicholas Murray Butler who had suspended him from Columbia University) for Drama for the Broadway production Of Thee I Sing, a musical written in collaboration with composer George Gershwin.
Ryskind wrote or co-wrote several Marx Brothers theatrical and motion picture screenplays, including the script and lyrics for the Broadway musical Animal Crackers (1929), and he wrote the script for The Cocoanuts (1929) and Animal Crackers (1930). Later, he wrote the screenplay for the film which revived the Marx Brothers' professional fortunes, A Night at the Opera (1935), and which was selected by the American Film Institute as among the top 100 comedy films ever made. In working on that script, Ryskind was heavily involved in the "cleanup process," watching the Brothers repeatedly perform sections of the play before live audiences in order to determine which lines worked and which did not. Ryskind also rewrote the stage version of Room Service (1938), the original of which did not have the Marx Brothers, reworking the plot to make the movie suitable for the three distinctive performers.
During this period, Ryskind was also twice nominated for an Academy Award for his part in writing the films My Man Godfrey (starring Carole Lombard, 1936) and Stage Door (starring Katharine Hepburn, 1937). Later, he wrote the screenplay for the successful Penny Serenade, wrote the stage musical Louisiana Purchase (which soon became a film starring Bob Hope) and supervised the production of The Lady Comes Across.