April 23, 2014
'West Side Story' playwright Arthur Laurents dies at 93
The Tony Award winning playwright Arthur Laurents died in New York City yesterday, due to complications of the pneumonia he suffered, his agent stated. He was 93 years old. Laurents became famous for writing the musical “West Side Story,” in 1957.
West Side Story was based upon the classic Romeo and Juliet story, set in New York, replacing the rival families for the street gangs the Sharks and the Jets. The musical score was written by legendary composer Leonard Bernstein, and went on to become one of the most famous musicals of all time.
Laurents, also a director and screenwriter, won two Tony Awards -- a best musical award in 1968 for "Hallelujah Baby!" which he wrote, and a best musical director award in 1984 for "La Cage aux Folles."
"His contributions as a playwright, novelist, screenwriter and director are legendary and we mourn the loss of a great artist," agent Jonathan Lomma said in a statement. He went on to state that, "he lived in total happiness for 53 years with his partner (actor) Tom Hatcher who (died) five years ago after battling cancer."
Laurents was also nominated for two Academy Awards in 1978 for writing 1977's "The Turning Point," starring Shirley MacLaine and Anne Bancroft. Although he did not win the Oscar for this film’s script, he did receive recognition by winning the Writers Guild of America Award, for Best Original Screenplay in the same year. He also wrote 1973's "The Way We Were," starring Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand.
However, his heart always remained in theatre. Successful Broadway revivals of both "West Side Story" and "Gypsy" have been staged in recent years and both productions were also Academy Award-winning and nominated films in the 1960s.