N. Richard Nash, Rainmaker Playwright, Dead at 87

News   N. Richard Nash, Rainmaker Playwright, Dead at 87 N. Richard Nash, the playwright whose well-known The Rainmaker was revived on Broadway in 1999-2000, died Dec. 11 in Manhattan, The New York Times reported.
A scene from the 1999 Broadway production of Richard Nash's The Rainmaker
A scene from the 1999 Broadway production of Richard Nash's The Rainmaker (Photo by Photo by Joan Marcus)

N. Richard Nash, the playwright whose well-known The Rainmaker was revived on Broadway in 1999-2000, died Dec. 11 in Manhattan, The New York Times reported.

Mr. Nash was 87 and was also a screenwriter, producer and librettist.

The Rainmaker is the popular tale of a spinster mesmerized by a wandering con-man named Starbuck, who promises rain in her drought-stricken western town. The folky comedy-drama, which had old-maid Lizzie also attracted to the earthbound local named File, opened in 1954 at Broadway's Cort Theatre. A film version starred Katharine Hepburn and Burt Lancaster. The recent Roundabout Theatre revival starred Woody Harrelson as Starbuck and Jayne Atkinson as Lizzie.

The work was originally billed as "a romantic play" — Mr. Nash regarded it as a comedy — and first starred Geraldine Page. Mr. Nash would eventually pen the libretto for its 1963 musical version, 110 in the Shade, which had a score by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt.

The Rainmaker is a staple in theatres around the world and actors regularly plunder the script for audition monologues, particularly Starbuck's yeasty speeches. Mr. Nash was born Nathaniel Richard Nusbaum in Philadelphia.

Among Mr. Nash works for the stage were Second Best Bed (1946), The Young and Fair (1948), See the Jaguar (1952), Girls of Summer (1956), Handful of Fire (1958), the libretto for the musical Wildcat (the Lucille Ball vehicle which he also co-produced in 1960), and the book of the Kander and Ebb musical, The Happy Time (1968).

Mr. Nash also wrote of number of teleplays in the 1950s and 1960s, and penned screenplays to "Welcome Stranger," "Nora Prentiss" and "Porgy and Bess." He was the author of a novel, "East Wind, Rain," and had recently completed another novel, "The Wildwood," according to The Times.

He is survived by daughters Jennifer Nash of New York and Amanda Nashg of Cambridge, MA, and a son, Cristopher, of England.