Jerome Lawrence, Inherit the Wind Playwright, Dead at 88

Obituaries   Jerome Lawrence, Inherit the Wind Playwright, Dead at 88
 
Jerome Lawrence, the playwright known for Auntie Mame, Inherit the Wind, The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail and First Monday in October, all collaborations with fellow writer Robert E. Lee, died Feb. 29 at his home in Malibu, California, according to The New York Times.

Mr. Lawrence was 88 and leaves behind 39 works co-written with Lee, including librettos for Dear World and Mame. Lee died in 1994.

Their best-known work might be the courtroom drama, Inherit the Wind, the even-handed fictionalization of the Scopes Monkey Trial that put a Tennessee teacher on trial for teaching Darwin's theory of evolution in a community where creationism was embraced.

Mr. Lawrence was born in Cleveland in 1915. His father owned a printing company and his mother was a poet and philanthropist. He earned a B.A. from Ohio State University in 1937 and later did graduate work at the University of California.

Mr. Lawrence reportedly met Lee (a native of Elyria, Ohio) in New York in 1942 while Mr. Lawrence was a writer for CBS radio and Lee was working for Young & Rubicam, the advertising agency.

While serving in World War II, they helped found the Armed Forces Radio Service. Their first Broadway collaboration after their service was the musical, Look, Ma! I'm Dancin'. Their works included Shangri-La (also lyricist), Diamond Orchid, The Incomparable Max, The Gang's All Here, Only in America and A Call on Kuprin.

According to The New York Times, the last collaboration of Lawrence & Lee was seen at the Missouri Rep in 1994. The play was Whisper in the Mind, about an imaginary meeting between Benjamin Franklin and hypnotist Frank Anton Mesmer.

Mr. Lawrence's one Tony Award nomination was for Best Musical, for Mame, though his works are revived hundreds of times around the world, long after many Tony-winning playwrights fall from view.

The writers also penned the screen plays of "Auntie Mame" (based on the novel by Patrick Dennis) and "Inherit the Wind."

The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail has had a wide life in university and regional theatre.

Mr. Lawrence is survived by his companion, Will Willoughby, of Malibu, his niece Deborah Robison of Berkeley, CA, his niece Paula Robison of Boston, and his nephew Joshua Robison of San Francisco.

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A theatre archive is named in honor of Lawrence & Lee at Ohio State University. Click here for more information.

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