Peter Stone, Librettist and Screenwriter, Dies at 73
In a long and fruitful career, Stone wrote or co-wrote 15 Broadway shows, the vast majority of them musicals. His book for 1776 (music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards) is widely considered one of the strongest in musical theater history, so well written as to be able to stand on its own even if the score were removed. The show is famous for including what is thought to be the longest non-musical scene in any musical -- a gripping stretch of dialogue, 30 minutes or more in length, between the songs "The Lees of Old Virginia" and "But, Mr. Adams."
Other Broadway musicals for which Stone served as librettist were Kean, Skyscraper, Two By Two, Woman of the Year, Grand Hotel, and My One and Only. He also wrote the book for Sugar, based on the film Some Like It Hot. (A rejiggered version of that show, starring Tony Curtis, has recently been touring the U.S. under the movie's title is rumored to be heading to Broadway.) For his efforts in the theater, Stone won five Tony awards and was nominated for the honor seven times.
He was president of the Dramatists Guild -- the national society of playwrights, composers and lyricists -- for many years. Although Stone had later-life successes with his books for The Will Rogers Follies and Titanic, his Broadway career ended on a controversial note when he rewrote the book for the Irving Berlin-Herbert & Dorothy Fields musical Annie Get Your Gun for a revival that starred Bernadette Peters, produced by Barry and Fran Weissler. Though the rewrite was undertaken because the show was considered by some to be dated and politicaly incorrect by current standards, many critics felt that Stone's book was inferior to the Fields's original.
Stone won an Academy Award for his screenplay Father Goose. His other film credits include Charade, The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3, Who's Killing the Great Chefts of Europe, and the big-screen adaptations of Sweet Charity and 1776. He wrote the pilots of 16 network series, collaborated with Richard Rodgers on the NBC-TV musical Androcles and the Lion, and won an Emmy Award for an episode of the CBS series The Defenders.