The son of a lawyer (Irving) and a schoolteacher (Ada), Arthur Laurents was born in Brooklyn on July 14, 1918. A summer camp gave him his first theater experience when he was cast in a play, The Crow’s Nest, for his ability to climb up a ship’s mast and remember his lines at the same time. “Theatre is fantasy, and you can make it all come true,” he remarked in a later interview, when asked of his love for theater. He was graduated from Erasmus Hall High School and continued his education at Cornell University, earning a B.A. degree in English in 1937. He wrote radio plays until World War II, when he enlisted in the U.S. Army and eventually worked in films that helped train the troops. The Face, a short radio play from that period, appeared in The Best One-act Plays of 1945-1946.
After a few partially successful plays (such as Home of the Brave in 1945) and failed dramatic efforts, Laurents found Hollywood and his flair for writing mysteries and thrillers, such as Rope and The Snake Pit. He tried Broadway once again with The Bird Cage in 1950, and in 1965 he collaborated on the more successful Do I Hear a Waltz? with Richard Rodgers and Sondheim. His play A Clearing in the Woods was praised by critics as “ambitious and original.” Laurents visited the musical genre once more in 1957 and wrote the book for Sondheim’s and Leonard Bernstein’s West Side...
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