Playwright-author Jean Kerr, who wrote hit Broadway shows and books (that later became films) with self-deprecating humor about show business and suburbia, died Sunday Jan. 5 in White Plains, N.Y., apparently of pneumonia. She was 80.
Kerr collaborated with her now-late husband-drama critic Walter Kerr on several shows that appeared on Broadway, included “Song of Bernadette,” “Jenny Kissed Me” and 1949 hit review “Tough and Go.” Her 1961 comedy “Mary, Mary,” about a divorced couple who ultimately reconcile, went on to become one of the longest-running productions of the decade, being performed on Broadway more than 1,500 times. It starred Barbara Bel Geddes, Barry Nelson, Betsy von Furstenberg and Michael Rennie, and the Mervyn LeRoy-directed 1963 screen version starred Nelson and Debbie Reynolds.
But Kerr is perhaps best known for “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies,” a 1957 compilation of her writings and which became a bestseller, later turned into a movie with David Niven and Doris Day and also a TV sitcom, both capitalizing on her gift for finding humor in the commonplace.
(In 1958, their musical comedy “Goldilocks” played briefly on Broadway, with music by Leroy Anderson, lyrics by the Kerrs and Joan Ford and choreography by Agnes de Mille, but was such a disappointment the couple swore off further such endeavors.)
Other theatrical outings include 1964’s “Poor Richard,” “Finishing Touches” (1973) and “Lunch Hour” (1980), directed by Mike Nichols and starring Sam Waterston and Gilda Radner.
Other published humor includes “The Snake Has All the Lines” (1960), “Penny Candy” (1970) and “How I Got to Be Perfect” (1978).
Scranton, Pa., native attended Marywood College and was stage manager of a college production when she met her future husband, then a drama professor at Catholic U., where she later earned a master’s degree.
Her husband died in 1996; other survivor information wasn’t immediately available but includes at least one son.