Stallings received a Master of Science degree from Georgetown University, after which he worked as a reporter, critic, and entertainment editor at the New York World. He was impressed by Maxwell Anderson's first play, White Desert, and the two joined forces to collaborate on What Price Glory, which opened at the Plymouth Theatre in New York City in 1924. The critically acclaimed play ran for 435 performances and spawned two film adaptations.
The two went on to co-write the plays The First Flight and The Buccaneer, both in 1925. Stallings continued his theatre career with the book and lyrics for the musical Deep River (1926), adapted Ernest Hemingway's novel A Farewell to Arms for the stage in 1930, co-wrote the book for the musicals Rainbow (1928) with Oscar Hammerstein and Virginia (1937) with Owen Davis, and penned the play The Streets Are Guarded in 1944. He was a member of the Algonquin Round Table.
Stallings novel, the autobiographical Plumes, was published in 1924 and was a huge success, with nine printings in that year alone. It was adapted into King Vidor's The Big Parade, which was quite successful and remained MGM's largest grossing film until Gone with the Wind in 1939. He was regarded as a key influence on three of John Ford's greatest films, serving as writer or co-writer for 3 Godfathers, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and The Sun Shines Bright. Additional screenwriting credits included Northwest Passage, The Man from Dakota, and On Our Merry Way.
Stalling's last book, The Doughboys: The Story of the AEF, 1917-1918, was published in 1963. The non-fiction account of World War I partly explores the racism and discrimination faced by the black troops during the war. Stallings was called back to service with the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II as a Lieutenant Colonel but did not serve overseas.
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