Martino Crowley, shortened to Mart Crowley, was the only child of devout, conservative, Catholic parents who sent him to a Roman Catholic high school in Vicksburg and urged him to attend the University of Notre Dame. Crowley balked and went to Los Angeles, drawn there by his early fascination with films and film stars. Soon his father, a transplanted Midwesterner of Irish ancestry, compromised and allowed Crowley to attend the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Two years of that atmosphere, however, was all that the starstruck Crowley could take, and he fled from Catholic University to the University of California at Los Angeles to study art, hoping to prepare himself to become a designer of film sets. He soon returned to Catholic University, where he developed a close association with classmate James Rado, one of the writers of the rock musical Hair (which ran in New York in 1968). Crowley worked in summer stock theater in Vermont during his summers at Catholic University.
Upon his graduation in 1957, Crowley’s interest in drama drew him to California to write scripts and work with production companies. From 1964 to 1966, he worked as private secretary for Natalie Wood, whom he had met when they worked together on William Inge’s film Splendor in the Grass (1961).
Discouraged when his film script of Dorothy Baker’s 1962 novel Cassandra at the Wedding was not produced, Crowley left California in 1966 and spent a year in Rome. By 1967, his fortunes were improving; Paramount Pictures filmed his screenplay Fade In. The studio’s failure to release the film, however, led Crowley to begin psychoanalysis to help him deal with his ensuing depression and anxiety. Through this psychoanalysis, he reached his decision to write an overtly homosexual play about gays celebrating the birthday of one of their friends.
The basic idea for The Boys in the Band had occurred to Crowley eight years earlier, and he had occasionally returned to it, but psychoanalysis provided him with the self-knowledge he needed to bring such a play to fruition. The actual writing proceeded quickly once Crowley decided to write the play; he...
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