Donald Bevan, Caricaturist and ‘Stalag 17’ Playwright, Dies at 93

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Donald Bevan, who wrote the play “Stalag 17” and was one of only four people to draw caricatures for Sardi’s restaurant in New York, died May 29 in Studio City, Calif. He was 93.

Born Jan. 16, 1920 in Holyoke, Mass., Bevan started in the theater world as a playwright, co-writing the 1951 World War II drama “Stalag 17” with Edmund Trzcinski.

The hit show ran for more than a year and was adapted into the 1953 Billy Wilder film that inspired the TV show “Hogan’s Heroes.” Bevan and Trzscinski drew on their experience as prisoners of war after they were shot down in Germany and spent time at Stalag 17B in Austria. In the prison, they wrote and staged sketches in a theater they built; Bevan also started cartooning there, where his drawings were noticed by war correspondent Walter Cronkite.

Bevan was married to actress Patricia Kirkland, whose father introduced him to Vincent Sardi, Jr. The drawings of theater personalities line the walls of three floors of the Times Square eatery, and Bevan’s portraits included Karl Malden, Lauren Bacall, Jackie Gleason, Carol Burnett and Laurence Olivier. He retired from his Sardi’s duties in 1974; the portraits are now drawn by Richard Baratz.

He is survived by a son and a daughter. Kirkland died in 2000.

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  1. Frank W says:

    I love Stalag 17. The ending of throwing Peter Graves out the door with the tin cans is burned into my memory from watching it as a little kid (possibly a network presentation). Finally seeing it as an older preteen and learning the title, I’ve revisited the film at least once a year since. This is the first time I’ve known a bit about the history of it.

    Also, I seem to recall reading somewhere back in the day that the makers of Stalag 17, not sure if it was the playwrights or the filmakers, sued the maker’s of Hogan’s Heroes.

    • Christopher Kirkland says:

      Yes, the playwright’s won a judgement in the “Hogan’s Heros” suit.
      There’s also a longer obit in last Saturday’s New York Times which includes more about “Stalag 17,” and I have the eulogy available.

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