Peter Stone

Oscar-winning writer

Peter Stone, scribe who won an Oscar for “Father Goose,” an Emmy for “The Defenders” and Tonys for three musicals, died of pulmonary fibrosis April 26 at New York-Cornell Hospital. He was 73.

He shared the Oscar for “Father Goose,” the Cary Grant starrer, in 1962 with S.H. Barnett and Frank Tarloff. The Emmy for an episode of acclaimed courtroom series “The Defenders” came in ’64. He nabbed the Tonys for writing the books to musicals “1776” (1969), “Woman of the Year” (1981) and “Titanic” (1997). He was nommed an additional three times as well.

Beyond the legit stage, Stone’s major writing credits include such diverse fare as the screenplays for “Charade,” “Sweet Charity,” “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three” and “Arabesque” as well as others.

He contributed most recently to Broadway by working on the 1999 revival of Irving Berlin’s “Annie Get Your Gun,” starring Bernadette Peters and then Reba McIntyre. Stone reworked the original book by Herbert Fields and Dorothy Fields, omitting politically incorrect references to Native Americans and rearranging the order of the songs. In Stone’s version, for example, the original Act Two number “There’s No Business Like Show Business” introduced the show and was reprised throughout.

On the road, the Tony Curtis starrer “Some Like It Hot,” with a book by Stone, is currently touring. Based on the Billy Wilder film classic, the musical had been titled “Sugar” when it preemed on Broadway in 1972.

At the time of his death, Stone was at work on two new musicals, collaborating with John Kander and Fred Ebb on “Curtains” and Maury Yeston on “Death Takes a Holiday.”

Few people knew the craft of musicals better than Stone. “You listen to the audience,” he said. “The audience is wrong individually and always right collectively. If they don’t laugh, it isn’t funny. If they cough, it isn’t interesting. If they walk out, you are in trouble.”

Stone was also the president of the Dramatists Guild from 1981 to 1999.

“Peter was instrumental in negotiating the terms of the APC, the standard contract governing the production of plays and musicals on Broadway,” said John Weidman, the current guild president. “And he spent the rest of his presidency — 15 more years — tenaciously defending the artistic and economic protections which it embodied. Everyone who writes for the theater owes him an enormous debt.”

He is survived by his wife, Mary, and a brother.

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