Willis Hall Biography


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Willis Hall was born on April 6, 1929, in Leeds, England, the son of Walter and Gladys Hall, and was educated in Leeds at Cockburn High School. As a youth, he became friends with Keith Waterhouse, with whom he worked on a youth-club magazine and collaborated on a wide variety of projects for the stage, television, film, and radio. That friendship was interrupted in 1947 by Hall’s five-year stint in the British Regular Army, during which time he served in the Far East as a radio playwright for Forces Radio. The military provided the background for Hall’s first major stage success after his return to England, The Long and the Short and the Tall, which included Peter O’Toole and Robert Shaw in the cast. Hall resumed his friendship with Waterhouse, and together they adapted Waterhouse’s novel Billy Liar for the stage in 1960, a highly successful production that established Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay, each of whom had a turn at the title role, as exceptionally gifted actors.

From that time on, Hall has occupied himself with a remarkably prolific and consistent literary life. With more than two dozen stage plays to his credit, some written with Waterhouse, Hall has successfully experimented in additional commercial forms. In addition to an active career writing and adapting for television, Hall has contributed The A to Z of Soccer (1970, with Michael Parkinson), the first of several soccer books in the 1970’s. He has written much high-quality children’s literature, including Spooky Rhymes (1987), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hollins (1988), Henry Hollins and the Dinosaur (1988), and The Vampire’s Holiday (1991). He is an avid amateur magician and a member of several magic societies.