Director, Writer, Creative Consultant, Source Material
( b. Jul 14, 1917 New York, New York, USA - d. May 05, 2011 New York, New York, USA ) Male
Arthur Laurents was a playwright, screenwriter and director who wrote and ultimately transformed two of Broadway’s landmark shows, Gypsy and West Side Story, and created one of Hollywood’s most well-known romances, “The Way We Were".
He attended Erasmus High School and then went to Cornell University, where, he recalled, he spent most of one school year reading plays. He sold his first radio play to CBS for $30 and heard it broadcast. His career was barely under way when he was drafted into the Army in 1941.
Back in New York, he made his Broadway debut in 1945 with Home of the Brave, a play about a young Jewish soldier traumatized by witnessing the death of his best friend during a combat mission on an island in the Pacific during World War II. When the play, a look at anti-Semitism in the military, was adapted for the screen by Carl Foreman in 1949, the central character became a black G. I., but the theme of destructive prejudice was unchanged.
A milestone was West Side Story, the 1957 musical for which Mr. Laurents’s book gave a contemporary spin to the tale of Romeo and Juliet. The Montagues and the Capulets, the families of the doomed young lovers, were now represented by the Jets and the Sharks, warring street gangs in Manhattan. Mr. Laurents also credited Mr. Hatcher with providing the spark that led to the hit revival of West Side Story in 2009. Mr. Hatcher had seen a production of it in Bogotá, Colombia, and suggested that a Broadway revival could benefit from having the Sharks, its members of Puerto Rican heritage, speak Spanish
Mr. Laurents directed the first revival of Gypsy in 1974 in London and on Broadway with Angela Lansbury in the lead, then staged it again on Broadway in 1989 with Tyne Daly as Rose. Bernadette Peters starred in the 2003 Broadway revival, directed by Sam Mendes.
Mr. Laurents managed to keep one foot in theater and the other in films. After a period away from Hollywood, he wrote the rave screenplay for “Anastasia” (1956), and adapted Françoise Sagan’s novel “Bonjour Tristesse” for a 1958 film.
Four years later he agreed to direct a limited-run revival of Gypsy as part of the Encores! summer concert series at City Center. This time, Patti LuPone played Momma Rose. He decided that the production would be a tribute to his longtime partner, Tom Hatcher, who had urged him to direct it before he died in 2006. Mr. Laurents was determined, as he put it, to make it “an Event.”
The City Center production was a triumph for both Mr. Laurents and Ms. LuPone, and in March 2008 a full-fledged staging of Gypsy opened to rave reviews on Broadway. The show received seven Tony Award nominations, including one for Mr. Laurents, who was on the verge of his 91st birthday. The winners included Ms. LuPone, as best leading actress in a musical.
Other notable Broadway credits include the direction for the original La Cage Aux Falles in 1983 and Anyone Can Whistle.
Source: The New York Times