Christopher Fry, who worked on the script of “Ben-Hur” and other films but was best known for his verse-plays, died June 30 in Chichester, England. He was 97.
Inspired by T.S. Eliot, he attempted a revival of verse-drama with “The Lady’s Not for Burning.” Five of his dramas plus his translation of a Jean Anouilh play, were successes post-WWII and into the 1950s.
Bristol, England, native developed an interest in theater and wrote of spiritual matters. “Armageddon” and “A Sleep of Prisoners” deal with mortality and devastation, influenced by his experiences as a boy during WWI.
Beginning in 1929, he acted, directed, wrote and ran a repertory company in Tunbridge Wells, where he premiered Shaw’s “A Village Wooing” in 1934. Other plays he wrote include “Boy With a Cart,” a verse drama; “A Phoenix Too Frequent,” starring Paul Scofield in his first London lead, about a Roman soldier and a woman planning to entomb herself with her dead husband; and most famously “The Lady’s Not for Burning” in 1948, restaged by John Gielgud in 1949, with unknowns Claire Bloom and Richard Burton.
He adapted Anouilh’s “Ring Round the Moon” at the same time “Lady” was running, and Laurence Olivier opened a season of plays with Fry’s “Venus Observed.” “The Dark Is Light Enough” starred Edith in 1954.
Tastes changed, and Fry, known for reinvigorating the stage language, now found his poetic ways dismissed. He nonetheless adapted “The Lark” by Anouilh, “Tiger at the Gates” by and Giraudoux and more.
Then he was asked to doctor the script for “Ben-Hur” for two weeks in Rome, but instead spent 14 months on the screenplay, which led to more writing for the films “Barabbas” and “The Bible.”
Later plays included Henry II-focused “Curtmantle,” and love story “A Yard of Sun.”
He is survived by a son.