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US Broadway playwright Laurents dies at 93

07 may 2011, 13:46
"West Side Story". REUTERS/Gary Hershorn©
"West Side Story". REUTERS/Gary Hershorn©
US playwright, screenwriter and director Arthur Laurents, best known for inspiring the Broadway musicals "West Side Story" and "Gypsy" died here late Thursday aged 93, US media reported, AFP reports.

Laurents's film credits included Alfred Hitchcock's "Rope," "The Turning Point" with Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine, and "The Way We Were" starring Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand, adapted from his novel of the same name.

But he was perhaps best known for the hit 1957 musical "West Side Story" based on his book, which set Romeo and Juliet in a gritty New York, their feuding families replaced by rival street gangs, the Sharks and the Jets.

Two years later he helped create "Gypsy," a musical about stripper Gypsy Lee Rose told from the point of view of her overbearing mother, famously played by Ethel Merman.

Laurents was born in New York on July 14, 1917, and drafted into the army in 1941 before his career took off.

In 1945 he made his Broadway debut with "Home of the Brave," a play about a Jewish soldier wrestling with army anti-Semitism and the death of his friend in fighting in the Pacific during World War II.

He later enjoyed a stint in Hollywood, writing the screenplay for the 1956 film Anastasia, in which Ingrid Bergman won an Oscar for playing a woman believed to be the sole survivor of the family of Russia's last czar.

He published his first novel, "The Way We Were," in 1972 and turned it into a screenplay the following year. The 1973 film starred Streisand as a Jewish political activist and Robert Redford as an apolitical screenwriter.

In it, Laurents drew on his own experience as a screenwriter during Hollywood's red scare in the late 1940s and early 1950s, when he was among several suspected Communist sympathizers who were blacklisted.

Laurents was openly gay, and spent more than 50 years with his partner Tom Hatcher until the latter died of lung cancer in 2006.

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