Frank D. Gilroy Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Frank Daniel Gilroy was born and grew up in New York City. He was the only child of Bettina and Frank B. Gilroy. His father, like John Cleary in The Subject Was Roses, was in the coffee business. The family lived in an apartment in the West Bronx. Memories of his early family life and his relationship with his parents eventually provided material for The Subject Was Roses as well as for Last Licks and Any Given Day. By the time Gilroy was graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School in 1943, he had shown an interest in writing but little promise as a student; his father was evidently willing to send him to college, but his grades were not good enough. Gilroy’s autobiographical novel Private opens with an account of a visit to New Haven and the humiliating return trip to New York after Yale University had rejected his application. Gilroy uses this event as the basis for his play Getting In.

Gilroy was drafted into the United States Army ten months after his high school graduation. He would say later that during his tour in the army his life underwent “some good and productive changes.” In Europe, however, attached to the Eighty-ninth Infantry Division Reconnaissance Troop, he saw degradation, the threat of death, and witnessed the depravity of the final days of the war. Private records the indelible impression of his army experiences; war memories both trivial and serious also surface in Who’ll Save the Plowboy? and The Subject Was Roses.

In 1946, Gilroy came out of the army with a desire to write and the determination to go to college. He applied to forty colleges and was accepted by only two of them—Davis and Elkins, and Dartmouth. He chose Dartmouth and was graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor of arts degree in 1950. In college, he wrote stories and was an editor of the paper, but a playwriting course convinced him that drama was the form best suited to his talents. During his junior and senior years, he wrote and was accorded productions of two full-length plays and six one-act plays. In both years, he won the Frost Playwriting Award. Following his graduation, Gilroy attended the Yale School of Drama with the help of a scholarship, but his funds ran out after six months.

The growing popularity of television provided a new market for playwrights, and Gilroy began writing scripts for television in the early 1950’s. To support himself during this period, he held a series of jobs—including messenger, trumpet player, and cabana salesman—but by the mid-1950’s he was making a good living from television. He wrote regularly for two popular Western series, The Rifleman and Have Gun, Will Travel, in addition to having plays produced by the leading network drama programs. He wrote at least three plays for Studio One: A Likely Story (1955), Uncle Ed and Circumstances (1955; adaptation of a story by Jackie Gleason), and The Last Summer (1958). Two of his plays appeared on Kraft Theater: Run for the Money (1954) and Ten Grapefruit to Lisbon (1956). A Matter of Pride (1957; adaptation of John Langdon’s story “The Blue Serge Suit”) was shown on the U.S. Steel Hour. For Playhouse 90 he adapted two works by John P. Marquand, Sincerely, Willis Wayde (in 1956) and Point of No Return (in 1958).

In 1954, Gilroy married Ruth Gaydos, and by the time The Subject Was Roses was produced, ten years later, they had three sons and lived in upstate New York. For several years at the end of the 1950’s, however, while Gilroy was employed as a studio screenwriter, California was his home. This experience was evidently the inspiration for ’Twas Brillig, a one-act comedy about a writer’s first day on a studio lot. In 1960, Gilroy collaborated with Beirne Lay, Jr., on The Gallant Hours, a biographical film about Admiral William Halsey, starring James Cagney. Gilroy’s work for television and films gave him enough time and income to write for the stage and enabled him to complete Who’ll Save the Plowboy? in 1957.

Gilroy moved his family back to New York in 1961, and in 1962, he found a producer for Who’ll Save the Plowboy? Although its reviews were generally favorable and it won an Obie Award, the play did not enjoy a long run—a month at the Phoenix Theatre and another month at the Orpheum Theatre. Its production at the Haymarket Theatre in the spring...

(The entire section is 1855 words.)

Frank D. Gilroy Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Playwright Frank Daniel Gilroy perfected his craft during the 1950’s, that period called the Golden Age of television. Gilroy authored television scripts, film scripts, and stage plays, as well as novels and nonfiction. He enjoyed a fruitful, successful career and earned the respect of his colleagues.

Gilroy was the son of Bettina (Vasti) and Frank B. Gilroy, a coffee broker. Born in the Bronx, New York City, he graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School, showing a talent for writing. Unable to get into college because of low grades, he entered the army, serving in the Eighty-ninth Infantry Division, with time in the European Theater. On discharge, he entered Dartmouth College and graduated magna cum laude in 1950. During his college years, he wrote several plays and worked on the college newspaper. After graduation, Gilroy worked at part-time jobs while writing television scripts. He married Ruth Dorothy Gaydo in 1954 and by 1956 was writing scripts for both motion pictures and television.

His first professionally produced play, Who’ll Save the Plowboy?, debuted in 1962. Despite positive critical response and an Obie Award, the drama was not a popular success. Critics saw the play, with its lean, spare structure and dialogue, as a bleak, naturalistic, autobiographical expression of a dysfunctional family beset by life’s ironies. The play centers on a reunion between World War II army buddies Albert and Larry. Fifteen years before, Larry had saved Albert’s life and was wounded in the process. Through correspondence, Albert had told Larry about his happy life and marriage and said that he named his son after Larry. However, Larry discovers that the reality of Albert’s situation is a bitter, hate-filled marriage, a handicapped child, and a mean and petty lifestyle. Larry, slowly dying of the fifteen-year-old wound, proves his nobility by never revealing his knowledge of Albert’s lies.

The husband-wife relationship in the play mirrored Gilroy’s own parents’ marriage, and the World War II component reflected his own army...

(The entire section is 849 words.)

Frank D. Gilroy Biography

(Drama for Students)

Frank Daniel Gilroy was born on October 13, 1925, to Bettina Vasti and Frank B. Gilroy in the Bronx, New York. He was educated in the Bronx...

(The entire section is 486 words.)