Mart Crowley- Celebrity history.
Mart Crowley is a playwright who was born on August 21, 1935, in Vicksburg, Mississippi. He attended a Catholic high school in his hometown and graduated from Catholic University of America in 1957 in Washington D.C.ter graduating from The Catholic University of America (Studying in acting and show business) in Washington, D.C. in 1957, Crowley headed west to Hollywood, where he worked for a number of television production companies. In the 1960’s, he worked in California for many television companies. Some of them included Martin Manulis Productions and Four Star Television. From 1964 to 1966, he was secretary for actress Natalie Wood. He met Natalie Wood on the set of her film Splendor in the Grass. Wood hired him as her assistant, primarily to give him ample free time to work on his gay-themed play The Boys in the Band. Crowley became part of Wood’s inner circle of friends. After working on an art degree at UCLA, briefly becoming an illustrator, and majoring in speech and drama at Catholic U., Crowley performed in regional theater and began writing. On a trip to New York, he got a job as a production assistant on the Mickey Rooney film, “The Last Mile,” which led to jobs on “The Fugitive Kind,” based on Williams’ play, Orpheus Descending, starring Marlon Brando, Anna Magnani, Joanne Woodward and Maureen Stapleton, and “Buttlerfield 8,” starring Elizabeth Taylor. One night, Crowley bumped into Elia Kazan, who offered him a job as his personal assistant on “Splendor in the Grass.” He did everything from making the director Greek salads to being the shoulder Natalie Wood cried on. When Wood was cast in West Side Story, she hired him as an assistant. “She knew I was writing all these screenplays and said if I came to California she’d introduce me to agents. Natalie trusted me enough to read scripts she received. Their relationship blossomed into a lifelong friendship (and continued later with husbands Robert Wagner and Richard Gregson and their children).
Of Wood he says, “She was that extraordinarily rare individual – warm, caring, wonderful. I loved her deeply.
Mart Crowley spent time in the Pines, even bringing out Natalie wood.
“I had had a life in Hollywood, in show business, for seven years, before writing this play. But by 1967, I was fairly washed up and no longer the new kid on the block. I was drinking heavily, very anxious, and in a precarious mental state. My friends were concerned about me. And I remember telling Dominick Dunne, who was then the vice-president of Four Star Television, that I was thinking about writing a play about eight homosexual men at a birthday party.” “Dominick wasn’t quite sure whether I was serious or not, but he thought it would be great therapy for me to keep working. And he cautioned, ‘Should the play not be produced, don’t let it throw you’–I think it was out of some concern that if that failed too, I would just wind up in a [mental] hospital.”
Dominick Dunne below.
Crowley briefly detailed the history of his failure in Hollywood: “I had sold a screenplay to 20th Century-Fox which was canceled even as the sets were being built. I then wrote a pilot for Four Star Television starring Bette Davis, and that was shot, but never shown, nor picked up by the sponsor. Then I was engaged to do a screenplay at Paramount, and actually got fired from that because they didn’t like my work.” He had sublet his apartment, thinking about going to New York. “I was house-sitting for a friend, Dianna Lynn, who had this big mansion with lots of household help. I was living a life of luxury, having my meals prepared and my laundry done. So I just began to make some notes about what was in my head. I didn’t know what it was, or where it would go. I typed the words ‘Boys in the Band’ and never stopped until I got to the last scene about five weeks later.” He came to New York with this last brief scene unfinished. “I moved in with Robert Moore, my friend from college. And I never left. Robert says he only directed this play to get me out of the house.” The play agent that Crowley went to was reluctant to send the play out under her company’s aegis, so Crowley suggested Richard Barr as a possible producer. “I felt that anybody with the courage, foresight, and taste to do ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ certainly wouldn’t be shocked by my play. This agent owed a favor to my friend who had sent me to her, so she unofficially asked Barr for his opinion of the play. And within 24 hours, I was the most stunned person in the world. “Richard Barr had read the play that night, and called the next day to discuss doing it at the Playwrights’ Unit which he and Edward Albee ran. The first available slot for a workshop was in January ’68. It was clear from that workshop that it was going to move. People were waiting in line every night, and we extended it to the limit that Equity allowed: 10 performances of packed houses. We opened at Theatre Four on Easter Sunday in 1968.”
Crowley mentions the specifics of some of his characters, and talked about the ‘truth game’ they play. “Michael tries to attack everybody in the play, and then they tell the truth–while it is he who is lying. And Harold knows that, and uses his own weapon against Michael, telling him the truth in no uncertain terms at the end of the play. I think it’s these emotional ‘truths’ that make an emotional connection with people who see it.’ Crowley also feels the play is unfairly criticized as being pessimistic. “The lovers in the play, Hank and Larry, make a most positive statement about commitment to each other, and a willingness to try to build a relationship on a flaw, and to work out that flaw to their own mutual satisfaction and reward. They are not victims of this horrible ‘truth game.’ They not only survive it; they win it. They declare their love for each other. And they declare that it’s better to try to make a go of it than to throw it away. Their last lines to each other–‘I’ll try.’ ‘I will too.’–that’s positive!
“Emory is a very positive character because even though he is a type of character that you don’t see too much of today, and is very, very unpopular with gay activists, in that time you couldn’t be more defiant than to be that flaming and incendiary! He defiantly announces who he is to the world–to Alan, the character that represents the outside world, the intruder. He never hides who he is, and that’s a very brave thing to do. In fact, he gets gay-bashed for doing it.”
The play premiered Off-Broadway on April 14, 1968 at Theater Four, where it ran for more than 1,000 performances. Directed by Robert Moore, the cast included Kenneth Nelson as Michael, Peter White as Alan, Leonard Frey as Harold, Cliff Gorman as Emory, Frederick Combs as Donald, Laurence Luckinbill as Hank, Keith Prentice as Larry, Robert La Tourneaux as Cowboy, and Reuben Greene as Bernard. The play was one of the first works to present a story centered around homosexuals.
When The Boys in the Band premiered in 1968, mainstream audiences were shocked. The play was profiled in the William Goldman book The Season: A Candid Look at Broadway.
In the same year, a two-disc, vinyl LP set was released, containing the full dialogue of the play voiced by the original actors. In 1970, it was adapted for a motion picture directed by William Friedkin.
In 1970, it was a milestone for gay representation in Hollywood. For decades, homosexuality did not appear onscreen at all; the 1930 Motion Picture Production Code, enforced until 1968, prohibited the portrayal of “sex perversion.” Although a handful of characters from classic films — Plato in Rebel Without a Cause, the “sissy” cowardly lion in The Wizard of Oz and the murderous aesthetes in Hitchcock’s Rope — managed to slip past the censors, those who would interpret such figures as gay are stuck reading subtext. In The Boys in the Band, on the other hand, gay desire and identity are explicit; each character announces his presence as a “fairy” or a “queen.” The film helped make the gay community culturally visible during a moment in which openly discussing homosexuality was still taboo, and many Americans had yet to encounter an “out” gay man in person.
(Below) Actress Natalie Wood with Mart Crowley and the cast.
Crowley’s second play, Remote Asylum, which was written in the Pines at 404 Ocean walk was not quite as successful. It was produced in 1970 in Los Angeles at the Ahmanson Theatre on December 1, 1970. The name was painted on a beam in the ceiling above where his desk was.Crowley’s third play opened in the fall of 1975. It was entitled A Breeze from the Gulf and is based on the early life of Crowley. Fortunately, the play brought back some of the power and energy of Crowley’s first play. It earned Crowley a second place vote for the prestigious New York Drama Critics Circle Award.
Crowley admits that his plays are autobiographical. In his introduction to 3 Plays by Mart Crowley, he refers to The Boys in the Band and says, “There was never a real birthday party attended by nine actual men…However, just before I began to write the play, I had…attended a party for a friend’s birthday and it gave me the idea of how to frame what had already been on my mind…All of the characters are based on people I either knew well or are amalgams of several I’d known to varying degrees, plus a large order of myself thrown into the mix.” A Breeze from the Gulf is based on his relationship with his parents but it has been “pushed and pulled, fictionalized and dramatized, and …personalized.” The fictional Michael is in many ways Mart Crowley. Teddy is Crowley’s father and Lorraine is his mother. Crowley has not written any new plays since 1984 when he wrote Avec Schmaltz for the Williamstown (Mass.) Theatre Festival. . From 1979 to 1980 he served as the executive script editor for the ABC series “Hart to Hart” and later as the producer. In the early 1980’s Crowley returned to television production in California, writing the television movie adaptation of James Kirkwood’s There Must Be a Pony. In 1996, he performed in The Celluloid Closet, which was nominated for an Emmy. He has most recently collaborated in the publication of a children’s book called “Eloise Takes a Bawth, ” a creation of Kay Thompson. After writing “Eloise in Moscow,” Thompson and Hilary Knight went to Rome where they worked on the book for four years. Playwright Mart Crowley lived in Rome nearby and visited them, adding his creative talents. Despite the fact that “Eloise Takes a Bawth” was cataloged by Harper and Row in 1964, the book was never published. Thompson died, but in 2001, Thompson’s heirs decided finally to publish “Eloise Takes a Bawth.” Hilary Knight again set to work creating art from sketches he’d drawn forty years before. Matt Crowley pieced together the many drafts of Kay Thompson’s text. Her niece and nephew and the editors at Simon & Schuster succeeded in publishing the book with the help of Crowley. Mart Crowley now lives and works in Los Angeles, California. In 2002, he came out with a sequel to The Boys in the Band entitled The Men From the Boys.
In 2011 Pines resident Crayton Robey created “Making the Boys.” A documentary about just that. A lot of human history stubbornly swirls above this groundbreaking piece, so it’s no small blessing Crayton Robey has stepped up to the plate to produce and direct — ultimately, an act of preservation — a documentary feature on the play and film and on the people it touched, for better and for worse.
Twenty or so “talking heads” have been corralled to give testimony about The Boys and the times — strong gay voices from a variety of professions: novelist Michael Cunningham, columnists Michael Musto, Patrick Pacheco and Dan Savage, actor Cheyenne Jackson, “Project Runway” designer Christian Siriano, songwriters Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, television host Andy Cohen and playwrights Paul Rudnick and Edward Albee. Robey went into the project with his priorities straight. “I wanted to get the surviving creators of The Boys in the Band first — to get that story exactly clear — and then go to different people who, through the years, have been influenced and inspired by the work. When I called them up, they were so ‘I have to be a part of this.’ The difficult thing was scheduling them. They’re all busy writers, working on projects, but once you got them in the room, they showed such love and respect for the play. They understood the significance of it, how it opened up possibilities. “We can hear Larry Kramer be very vulnerable about watching Boys in the Band in London when he was, at that time, a struggling writer — and it just gave him so much inspiration and power. And Terrence McNally — for him to say, ‘I wouldn’t be able to write all the stuff that I was writing without Boys in the Band.’ And then Tony Kushner — to be inspired as a 13-year-old about The Boys in the Band, who suddenly felt he could just do anything. A documentary on that alone could be done. They all understood the value of this.”
2017. Just announced the 2018 revival of Boys in the band with a perfect all star cast. Andrew Rannells, Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, and Robin De Jesus.
Playwright Mart Crowley on the Broadway revival of “Boys in the Band” here.
2020. Film version on Netflix.