Frank D. Gilroy, who won fame and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama with his 1964 domestic drama The Subject Was Roses, died Sept. 12 in Monroe, NY. He was 89.
The Subject Was Roses told the story of a young soldier who returns to his childhood apartment after service in World War II to find that the loving relationship between his parents is not all that it seems. The play—which starred Jack Albertson, Irene Dailey and a young Martin Sheen—received good reviews and ran for two years. It won almost every major award available, including the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award, the Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize.
Many critics found Gilroy’s Who’ll Save the Ploughboy?, which debuted two years before Roses, even more admirable, and rated it above the more famous play. The drama was another one that drew on Gilroy's wartime experience, telling the tale of two former GIs, one of whom saved the other’s life. It won an Obie Award.
In 1968, The Subject Was Roses was made into a film starring Albertson, Sheen and Patricia Neal. Mr. Gilroy wrote the screenplay. Albertson won an Oscar for his performance as the emotionally wounded and confused father.
Mr. Gilroy, who began his writing career in live television, was an active screenwriter. He also wrote the scripts for "The Only Game in Town," "Desperate Characters," "From Noon Till Three," based on his own novel, "Once in Paris," "The Gig" and "The Luckiest Man in the World." He was also director of some of these films.
Gilroy went on to write several more plays, some of which made it to Broadway, but never again achieved the sort of success he enjoying with The Subject Was Roses, which remained a staple of regional and community theatre for many years after its premiere. The Roundabout Theatre Company revived the play in 1991, with John Mahoney in the cast.
Mr. Gilroy’s other plays included That Summer, That Fall, The Only Game in Town, Present Tense (a collection of four short plays), The Next Contestant, Last Licks, Dreams of Glory, Real to Reel, Match Point, A Way With Words (another collection of short plays), Contact With the Enemy (a Drama Desk nominee) and Any Given Day.
Frank D. Gilroy was born Oct. 13, 1925, in New York City He served two and a half years in the 89th Division, of which eighteen months were in the European Theatre. After the war, he attended Dartmouth College.
He is survived by three sons, Dan, Tony and John, who are all in the film business.