Philip Yordan, Author of Anna Lucasta, Is Dead at 88

Obituaries   Philip Yordan, Author of Anna Lucasta, Is Dead at 88
Philip Yordan, the playwright who scored one of the biggest Broadway successes of the 1940s with Anna Lucasta, died on March 24 in San Diego, the New York Times reported. He was 88.

Anna Lucasta was significant not only for its long run (957 performances) but for its cast, which was entirely African-American-a rarity for the time. The production marked the first major Broadway credit for such performers as Alice Childress, Earle Hyman and Ruby Dee.

Mr. Yordan did not originally intend to write a play for black actors. His first draft, called Anna Lukaska, was about a Polish-American prostitute looking for redemption from her family. The dramatist could not find a Broadway producer willing to stage the work, but did attract the interest of Abram Hill, Frederick O'Neal and Austin Briggs-Hall, the founders of the American Negro Theatre. According to the book "It's a Hit!," Hill acquired the rights to the work and recast it as an African-American story.

The production debuted in 1944 in Harlem. Reviews were such that it was soon spirited to Broadway by producer John J. Wildberg. Harry Wagstaff Gribble directed the work, which played to packed audiences for more than two years.

Mr. Yordan's play was twice made into a movie, once in 1949 with a white cast headed by Paulette Goddard, and again in 1958 with a black cast including Eartha Kitt.

Anna Lucasta also has the unusual status of having inspired another hit play, Trouble in Mind by Childress, who played a prostitute in the play. Trouble is about a black actress appearing in a play which is directed by a white man and written by another white man. It was largely viewed as a dramatization of Childress' experiences in Anna Lucasta. The play won an Obie Award in 1955. Born in Chicago and educated at Kent College, Mr. Yordan spent most of the rest of his career in Hollywood, writing screenplays for such films as "Dillinger," "Detective Story," "Broken Lance" (for which he won the Academy Award), "The Big Combo" and "The Harder They Fall." He often served as a front for many of his blacklisted writer friends.

An earlier play of his, Any Day Now, was staged at the Studio Theatre of the New School for Social Research in 1941.

He is survived by his wife and five children.

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