Hungarian playwright, whose ingeniously constructed boulevard dramas effectively combine romantic feeling with lightly cynical realism.
Born at Budapest, Molnár studied law but in 1896 became a journalist and was soon drawn to the theatre. His first farces were popular locally and were followed by Az ördög (1907; translated as The Devil), a treatment of the Faust story that was produced in New York the following year. Liliom (1909), his best play, was a failure when first performed in Budapest, but it was revived after World War I and was an outstanding success in New York (1921) and London (1926) and again later in the form of the Broadway musical Carousel (1945). During the war, Molnár was a war correspondent and during the 1920s lived mainly in western Europe. He eventually settled in America, becoming a US citizen in 1940. He died in New York.
Among his many other plays are A testör (1910; translated as The Guardsman), which was adapted for radio by Arthur Miller (1947); The Glass Slipper (1924), based on Cinderella; and The Play in the Castle (1924). The last was shown in New York as The Play's the Thing (1926), adapted by P. G. Wodehouse, and more recently in London formed the basis of Rough Crossing (1984), an adaptation by Tom Stoppard. Because he had lived most of his life abroad and perhaps because of his western success, Molnár was neglected in his native land until 1965, when his third wife, Lili Darvas, performed Olimpia (1927) there and revived his Hungarian reputation. His novel A Pál utcai fiuk (1907; translated as The Paul Street Boys, 1927) was widely translated.