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Athur Laurent Arthur Laurents (July 14, 1917 – May 5, 2011) was an American playwright, stage director and screenwriter.

After writing scripts for radio shows after college and then training films for the U.S. Army during World War II, Laurents turned to writing for Broadway, producing a body of work that includes West Side Story (1957), Gypsy (1959), and Hallelujah, Baby! (1967), and directing some of his own shows and other Broadway productions.

His early film scripts include Rope (1948) for Alfred Hitchcock, followed by Anastasia (1956), Bonjour Tristesse (1958), The Way We Were (1973), and The Turning Point (1977).


Contents
1 Early life
2 Theatrical career
3 Film career
4 Blacklist
5 Memoirs
6 Death
7 Work
7.1 Writing
7.2 Directing
7.3 Additional credits
8 Awards, nominations and honors
9 See also
10 References
11 Further reading
12 External links
Early life
Born Arthur Levine, Laurents was the son of middle-class Jewish parents, a lawyer and a schoolteacher who gave up her career when she married. He was born and raised in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, a borough of New York City, New York, the elder of two children, and attended Erasmus Hall High School. His sister Edith suffered from chorea as a child.

His paternal grandparents were Orthodox Jews, and his mother's parents, although born Jewish, were atheists. His mother kept a kosher home for her husband's sake, but was lax about attending synagogue and observing the Jewish holidays. His Bar Mitzvah marked the end of Laurents's religious education and the beginning of his rejection of all fundamentalist religions, although he continued to identify himself as Jewish. However, late in life he admitted to having changed his last name from Levine to the less Jewish-sounding Laurents, "to get a job."

After graduating from Cornell University, Laurents took an evening class in radio writing at New York University. William N. Robson, his instructor, a CBS Radio director/producer, submitted his script Now Playing Tomorrow, a comedic fantasy about clairvoyance, to the network, and it was produced in the Columbia Workshop series on January 30, 1939, with Shirley Booth in the lead role. It was Laurents' first professional credit. The show's success led to him being hired to write scripts for various radio shows, among them Lux Radio Theater. Laurents' career was interrupted when he was drafted into the U.S. Army in the middle of World War II. Through a series of clerical errors, he never saw battle, but instead was assigned to the U.S. Army Pictorial Service located in a film studio in Astoria, Queens, where he wrote training films and met, among others, George Cukor and William Holden. He later was reassigned to write plays for Armed Service Force Presents, a radio show that dramatized the contributions of all branches of the armed forces.

Theatrical career
According to John Clum, "Laurents was always a mirror of his times. Through his best work, one sees a staged history of leftist, gender, and gay politics in the decades after World War II." After graduating from Cornell University in 1937, Laurents went to work as a writer for radio drama at CBS in New York. His military duties during World War II, which consisted of writing training films and radio scripts for Armed Service Force Presents, brought him into contact with some of the best film directors—distinguished director George Cukor directed his first script. Laurents's work in radio and film during World War II was an excellent apprenticeship for a budding playwright and screenwriter. He also had the good fortune to be based in New York City. His first stage play, Home of the Brave, was produced in 1945. The sale of the play to a film studio gave Laurents the entrée he needed to become a Hollywood screenwriter though he continued, with mixed success, to write plays. The most important of his early screenplays is his adaptation of Rope for Alfred Hitchcock.

Soon after being discharged from the Army, Laurents met ballerina Nora Kaye, and the two became involved in an on-again, off-again romantic relationship. While Kaye was on tour with Fancy Free, Laurents continued to write for the radio but was becoming discontented with the medium. At the urging of Martin Gabel, he spent nine consecutive nights writing a play In 1962, Laurents directed I Can Get It for You Wholesale, which helped to turn then-unknown Barbra Streisand into a star. His next project was the stage musical Anyone Can Whistle, which he directed and for which he wrote the book, but it proved to be an infamous flop. He later had success with the musicals Hallelujah, Baby! (written for Lena Horne but ultimately starring Leslie Uggams) and La Cage Aux Folles (1983), which he directed, however Nick & Nora was not successful.

In 2008, Laurents directed a Broadway revival of Gypsy starring Patti LuPone, and in 2009, he tackled a bilingual revival of West Side Story, with Spanish translations of some dialogue and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda. While preparing West Side Story, he noted, "The musical theatre and cultural conventions of 1957 made it next to impossible for the characters to have authenticity." Following the production's March 19 opening at the Palace Theatre, Ben Brantley of The New York Times called the translations "an only partly successful experiment" and added, "Mr. Laurents has exchanged insolence for innocence and, as with most such bargains, there are dividends and losses." The national tour (2011-2012) was directed by David Saint, who was Laurents' assistant director on the Broadway production. The Spanish lyrics and dialog were reduced from about 18% of the total to about 10%.

Film career
Laurents' first Hollywood experience proved to be a frustrating disappointment. Director Anatole Litvak, unhappy with the script submitted by Frank Partos and Millen Brand for The Snake Pit (1948), hired Laurents to rewrite it. Partos and Brand later insisted the bulk of the shooting script was theirs, and produced carbon copies of many of the pages Laurents actually had written to bolster their claim. Having destroyed the original script and all his notes and rewritten pages after completing the project, Laurents had no way to prove most of the work was his, and the Writers Guild of America denied him screen credit. Brand later confessed he and Partos had copied scenes written by Laurents and apologized for his role in the deception. Four decades later, Laurents learned he was ineligible for WGA health benefits because he had failed to accumulate enough credits to qualify. He was short by one, the one he failed to get for The Snake Pit.

Upon hearing 20th Century Fox executives were pleased with Laurents' work on The Snake Pit, Alfred Hitchcock hired him for his next project, the film Rope starring James Stewart. Hitchcock wanted Laurents to Americanize the British play Rope (1929) by Patrick Hamilton for the screen. With his then-lover Farley Granger set to star, Laurents was happy to accept the assignment. His dilemma was how to make the audience aware of the fact the three main characters were homosexual without blatantly saying so. The Hays Office kept close tabs on his work, and the final script was so discreet that Laurents was unsure whether co-star James Stewart ever realized that his character was gay. In later years, Hitchcock asked him to script both Torn Curtain (1966) and Topaz (1969), However, Laurents, in both cases unenthused by the material, declined the offers.

Laurents also scripted Anastasia (1956) and Bonjour Tristesse (1958). The Way We Were (1973), in which he incorporated many of his own experiences, particularly those with the HUAC, reunited him with Barbra Streisand, and The Turning Point (1977), inspired in part by his love for Nora Kaye, was directed by her husband Herbert Ross. The Fox animated feature film Anastasia (1997) was based in part from his screenplay of the live-action 1956 film of the same title.

Blacklist
Because of a casual remark made by Russel Crouse, Laurents was called to Washington, D.C., to account for his political views. He explained himself to the House Un-American Activities Committee, and his appearance had no obvious impact on his career, which at the time was primarily in the theatre. When the McCarran Internal Security Act, which prohibited individuals suspected of engaging in subversive activities from obtaining a passport, was passed in 1950, Laurents and Granger immediately applied for and received passports and departed for Paris with Harold Clurman and his wife Stella Adler. Laurents and Granger remained abroad, traveling throughout Europe and northern Africa, for about 18 months.

Years earlier, Laurents and Jerome Robbins had developed Look Ma, I'm Dancin'! (1948), a stage musical about the world of ballet that ran for 188 performances on Broadway, and starred Nancy Walker and Harold Lang. (Although the musical was ultimately produced with a book by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, as Laurents left the project.) Robbins approached Paramount Pictures about directing a screen version, and the studio agreed as long as Laurents was not part of the package.

It was not until then that Laurents learned he officially had been blacklisted, primarily because a review of Home of the Brave had been published in the Daily Worker. He decided to return to Paris, but the State Department refused to renew his passport. Laurents spent three months trying to clear his name, and after submitting a lengthy letter explaining his political beliefs in detail, it was determined they were so idiosyncratic he could not have been a member of any subversive groups. Within a week his passport was renewed, and the following day he sailed for Europe on the Ile de France. While on board, he received a cable from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer offering him a screenwriting assignment. The blacklist had ended.

Memoirs
Laurents wrote Original Story By Arthur Laurents: A Memoir of Broadway and Hollywood, published in 2000. In it, he discusses his lengthy career and his many gay affairs and long-term relationships, including those with Farley Granger and Tom Hatcher (August 24, 1929 - October 26, 2006). Hatcher was an aspiring actor whom Gore Vidal suggested Laurents seek out at the Beverly Hills men's clothing store Hatcher was managing at the time. The couple remained together for 52 years until Hatcher's death on October 26, 2006.

Laurents wrote Mainly on Directing: Gypsy, West Side Story and Other Musicals, published in 2009, in which he discussed musicals he directed and the work of other directors he admired.

His last memoir titled The Rest of the Story was published posthumously in September 2012.

Death
Laurents died at the age of 93 at his home in Manhattan on May 5, 2011 of pneumonia complications, as reported by The New York Times. Following a long tradition, Broadway theatre lights were dimmed at 8 p.m. on May 6, 2011, for one minute in his memory. His ashes were buried alongside those of Tom Hatcher in a memorial bench in Quogue, Long Island, New York.

Work
Writing
Musicals
West Side Story – 1957 – Tony Nomination for Best Musical
Gypsy – 1959 – Tony Nomination for Best Musical
Anyone Can Whistle – 1964
Do I Hear a Waltz? – 1965
Hallelujah, Baby! – 1967 – Tony Award for Best Musical
The Madwoman of Central Park West – 1979
Nick & Nora – 1991
Novel
The Turning Point – 1977; New American Library (New York City); OCLC 11014907
Plays
Home of the Brave – 1945
The Bird Cage – 1950
The Time of the Cuckoo – 1952
A Clearing in the Woods – 1957
Invitation to a March – 1960
Directing
Invitation to a March – 1960
I Can Get It for You Wholesale – 1962
Anyone Can Whistle – 1964
Gypsy – 1974 – Tony Nomination for Best Direction of a Musical
The Madwoman of Central Park West – 1979
La Cage aux Folles – 1983 – Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical
Nick & Nora – 1991
Gypsy – 2008 – Tony Award nomination as Best Director of a Musical
West Side Story – 2009 Broadway Revival
Additional credits
Anna Lucasta (screenwriter)
A Clearing in the Woods (playwright)
Invitation to a March (playwright, director)
The Madwoman of Central Park West (playwright, director)
My Good Name (playwright)
Jolson Sings Again (playwright)
The Enclave (playwright, director)
Radical Mystique (playwright, director)
Big Potato (playwright)
Two Lives (playwright)
My Good Name (playwright)
Claudia Lazlo (playwright)
Attacks on the Heart (playwright)
2 Lives (playwright)
New Year's Eve (playwright)
Come Back, Come Back, Wherever You Are (playwright, director)
Caught (screenwriter)
Rope (screenwriter)
Awards, nominations and honors
A new award was established in 2010, The Laurents/Hatcher Foundation Award. This is awarded annually "for an un-produced, full-length play of social relevance by an emerging American playwright." The Laurents/Hatcher Foundation will give $50,000 to the writer with a grant of $100,000 towards production costs at a nonprofit theatre. The first award will be given in 2011.

Theatre
1958 Tony Award for Best Musical (West Side Story, nominee)
1960 Tony Award for Best Musical (Gypsy, nominee)
1968 Tony Award for Best Musical (Hallelujah, Baby!, winner)
1975 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Musical (Gypsy, winner)
1975 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical (Gypsy, nominee)
1984 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical (La Cage aux Folles, winner)
2008 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical (Gypsy, nominee)
Film
Academy Award for Best Picture (The Turning Point, nominee)
Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay (The Turning Point, nominee)
Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Motion Picture Screenplay (Rope, nominee)
Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay (The Turning Point, nominee)
Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay (The Way We Were, nominee; The Turning Point, winner)
National Board of Review Award for Career Achievement (winner)
See also
Biography portal
Film portal
Musical Theatre portal
icon Theatre portal
icon Writing portal
List of Jewish American playwrights
List of novelists from the United States
List of pneumonia victims
List of people from Brooklyn, New York
List of playwrights from the United States
List of theatre directors
References
"Legendary Writer & Director Arthur Laurents Dies at 93". Broadway World. Retrieved May 6, 2011.
John M. Clum. The Works of Arthur Laurents: Politics, Love, and Betrayal. Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2014.
"Obituaries: Arthur Laurents". The Daily Telegraph. May 6, 2011.
"When You’re a Shark You’re a Shark All the Way". New York.
Hawtree, Christopher (May 6, 2011). "Arthur Laurents obituary: Playwright and screenwriter who wrote the book for West Side Story". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 August 2012.
Hutchinson, Bill (May 6, 2011). "Playwright Behind 'West Side Story' and 'Gypsy,' Arthur Laurents, Dies at Age 93". Daily News.
Arnold, Laurence (May 5, 2011). "Arthur Laurents, Writer of 'West Side Story,' 'Gypsy' Scripts, Dies at 93". Bloomberg News.
Laurents, Arthur. "Beginnings" Original Story By Arthur Laurents: A Memoir of Broadway and Hollywood, Hal Leonard Corporation, 2001, ISBN 1-55783-467-9, pp. 10–11, 34–35.
Laurents, Arthur. Original Story By. New York: Alfred A. Knopf (2000). ISBN 0-375-40055-9, pp. 6–7.
Laurents, p. 133.
Laurents, pp. 12–13.
Laurents, pp. 22–28.
Clum, John, "The Works of Arthur Laurents: Politics, Love, and Betrayal", November 2014, Cambria Press, ISBN 1604978848
Clum, John, "The Works of Arthur Laurents: Politics, Love, and Betrayal"
Laurents, p. 93.
Jones, Kenneth (July 16, 2008). "'West Side Story', This Time With Bilingual Approach, Will Return to Broadway in February 2009". Playbill.
Brantley, Ben (March 20, 2009). "Our Gangs". The New York Times.
Berson, M. (January 8, 2012). "'West Side Story': A classic revived" Archived January 12, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. Seattle Times.
Laurents, pp. 106–120.
Laurents, pp. 115–116, 124–131.
Laurents, p. 136.
""West Side Story Author Arthur Laurents Dies, 93" Archived July 9, 2012, at Archive.today forum.bcdb.com. May 4, 2011.
Laurents, p. 29.
Laurents, pp. 165–190.
Vaill, Amanda (2006). Somewhere: The Life of Jerome Robbins, Random House, Inc. p. 135. ISBN 0-7679-0420-6.
"'Look Ma, I'm Dancin' listing". Internet Broadway Database.
Laurents, pp. 286–289.
"Backstage.com obituary, November 1, 2006". Backstage.
Berkvist, Robert (May 5, 2011). "Arthur Laurents, Playwright and Director on Broadway, Dies at 93". The New York Times.
Jones, Kenneth (May 6, 2011). "Broadway Lights Will Dim May 6 in Memory of Arthur Laurents" Archived October 21, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. Playbill.
Gans, Andrew (June 3, 2010). "New Award Named for Arthur Laurents and His Partner, the Late Tom Hatcher" Archived June 5, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. Playbill.
Further reading
Laurents, Arthur (2000). Original Story by Arthur Laurents: A Memoir of Broadway and Hollywood. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0-375-40055-9.
Laurents, Arthur (2009). Mainly on Directing: Gypsy, West Side Story, and Other Musicals. New York: Knopf. ISBN 0-307-27088-2.
Clum, John (2014). The Works of Arthur Laurents: Politics, Love, and Betrayal. Amherst, NY: Cambria Press. ISBN 978-1-60497-884-1.
External links
Arthur Laurents at the Internet Broadway Database Edit this at Wikidata
Arthur Laurents at the Internet Off-Broadway Database
Arthur Laurents on IMDb
American Theatre Wing biography
Works by or about Arthur Laurents in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
Works by Arthur Laurents at Open Library Edit this at Wikidata
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Works by Arthur Laurents
Writer
Musicals
West Side Story (1957) Gypsy (1959) Anyone Can Whistle (1964) Do I Hear a Waltz? (1965) Hallelujah, Baby! (1967) The Madwoman of Central Park West (1979) Nick & Nora (1991)
Plays
Home of the Brave (1945) The Time of the Cuckoo (1952)
Films
Rope (1948) Caught (1949) Anastasia (1956) Bonjour Tristesse (1958) The Way We Were (1973) The Turning Point (1977)
Director
I Can Get It for You Wholesale (1962) Anyone Can Whistle (1964) Gypsy (1974) The Madwoman of Central Park West (1979) La Cage aux Folles (1983) Birds of Paradise (1987) Gypsy (1989) Nick & Nora (1991) Gypsy (2008) West Side Story (2009)
Awards for Arthur Laurents
vte
Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim's West Side Story (1957)
Characters
Maria
Inspiration
William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet
Adaptations
West Side Story (1961 film) West Side Story Suite (1995 ballet) West Side Story (2020 film)
Variations
Deaf Side Story (c. 2002 musical) Swango (2002 musical) West Bank Story (2005 parody film)
Songs
Act 1
"Something's Coming" "Maria" "Tonight" "America" "Cool" "One Hand, One Heart" "Tonight (Quintet & Chorus)"
Act 2
"I Feel Pretty" "Somewhere" "Gee, Officer Krupke" "A Boy Like That"
Albums
West Side Story (1957 original cast) West Side Story (1959 Previn) West Side Story (1961 soundtrack) West Side Story (1961 Tjader) Bernstein Plays Brubeck Plays Bernstein (1961 Brubeck Quartet) West Side Story (1962 Peterson Trio) Kenton's West Side Story (1962 Kenton) Toshiko–Mariano Quartet (in West Side) (1963 Akiyoshi) West Side Story (1974 Earl Hines)
Related
"The First Time" "Upper West Side Story" Wild Side Story China Girl "Roses" Play It Again Josh Superjail!
Authority control Edit this at Wikidata
BNE: XX1122852 BNF: cb140368976 (data) GND: 123286352 ISNI: 0000 0001 1025 0247 LCCN: n85173003 MusicBrainz: e062e9c9-5fd4-4384-ba1d-71495ce3bb7d NKC: xx0026607 NTA: 071341080 SNAC: w6gf56zk SUDOC: 058478094 VIAF: 37116781 WorldCat Identities (via VIAF): 37116781
Categories: 1917 births2011 deathsAmerican memoiristsAmerican musical theatre librettistsAmerican people of World War IIAmerican male screenwritersCornell University alumniDeaths from pneumoniaDrama Desk Award winnersErasmus Hall High School alumniGay writersHollywood blacklistInfectious disease deaths in New York (state)Jewish American novelistsLGBT JewsLGBT memoiristsLGBT writers from the United StatesPeople from Flatbush, BrooklynUnited States Army personnelWriters from New York CityJewish American dramatists and playwrightsAnalysands of Theodor ReikLGBT dramatists and playwrightsLGBT novelistsGolden Globe Award-winning producersAmerican male novelistsLGBT screenwritersLGBT people from New York (state)Tony Award winnersAmerican male dramatists and playwrights20th-century American novelists20th-century American dramatists and playwrightsNovelists from New York (state)20th-century American non-fiction writersAmerican male non-fiction writersScreenwriters from New York (state)American Theater Hall of Fame inductees
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