Jay Presson Allen, Playwright of Jean Brodie and Tru, and Screenwriter of "Cabaret," Dead at 84

Obituaries   Jay Presson Allen, Playwright of Jean Brodie and Tru, and Screenwriter of "Cabaret," Dead at 84
Jay Presson Allen, the playwright, director and screenwriter whose scripts helped earned three performers Tony Awards, died May 1 at her home in Manhattan, according to The New York Times.

Ms. Presson Allen was 84. Her work was never Tony-nominated, but Zoe Caldwell, Julie Harris and Robert Morse all won leading performer Tonys for their respective work in her The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (adapted from the novel by Muriel Spark), Forty Carats (written by Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Gredy; adapted by Ms. Presson Allen) and the gossipy, delicious Truman Capote solo, Tru (for which Morse acted in layers of latex and makeup to play the gnomish late-career Capote).

Her other Broadway plays included The Big Love (a 1991 solo show for Tracey Ullman) and 1982's A Little Family Business (another adaptation of a play by Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Gredy).

The cause of death was a stroke, her daughter, Brooke Allen, told the Times.

Born Jay Presson in Fort Worth, TX, she added producer-husband Lewis Allen's surname. They were married 1955-2003, when he died.

In 1969, Ms. Presson Allen adapted The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie to the screen. Maggie Smith won the Best Actress Academy Award for playing the magnetic Edinburgh schoolteacher. Vanessa Redgrave originated the stage role in London, followed by Caldwell on Broadway). Liza Minnelli won the Best Actress Oscar for playing Sally Bowles in the film, "Cabaret," which had a screenplay by Ms. Presson Allen and direction by Bob Fosse. Their vision of the tale was markedly different from the stage version of 1966. Ms. Presson Allen was Oscar nominated for the adapted screenplay.

Mostly working as an adaptor of existing material, she wrote screenplays to "Marnie," "Funny Lady," "Just Tell Me What You Want," "Travels With My Aunt" and "Prince of the City," as well as the film version of Ira Levin's "Deathtrap."

"The trick in adapting," Ms. Allen said in a 1982 interview with The New York Times, "is not to throw out the baby with the bath water. You can change all kinds of things, but don't muck around with the essence." Although her teen-age dream was to be an actress, she soon focused on writing. In 1948, her novel, "Spring Riot," was published. She wrote for TV in the Golden Age of TV drama. She also created the TV drama, "Family," respected in the 1970s for its intelligence and frankness.

She met Lewis M. Allen through producer Robert Whitehead. Allen produced Tru and The Big Love. In addition to her daughter, Ms. Presson Allen is survived by two grandchildren.

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