Playwright Sidney Michaels, whose work drew Tony nominations in three seasons running during the 1960s and penned the 1968 film “The Night They Raided Minsky’s,” died April 22 in Westport, Conn. He was 83 and had Alzheimer’s.
When Michaels’ “Tchin-Tchin” hit Broadway in 1962, audiences and critics responded enthusiastically. The play, starring Margaret Leighton and Anthony Quinn, Americanized the French farce with a bittersweet touch as a couple ineptly seek to wreak revenge upon one another by having an affair. It received four Tony noms, including best play.
For Michaels’ biography of poet Dylan Thomas, “Dylan,” Alec Guinness won his only Tony for his perf in the title role. This work, too, received a total of four Tony noms, including best play.
The following year, Robert Preston essayed the title in “Ben Franklin in Paris,” a musical for which Michaels penned the books and lyrics, drawing his third Emmy nomination.
Michaels was not always successful. He and Richard Rodgers partnered on a musical about the Egyptian queen Nefertiti, “The Beautiful Woman,” but the project never came to fruition; Michaels worked with composer Mitch Leigh on “Halloween,” but that musical never made it to Broadway.
He wrote two other shows that did hit Broadway but remained only briefly: 1975 Joan of Arc musical “Goodtime Charley,” starring Joel Grey and Ann Reinking, and 1980’s “Tricks of the Trade,” which starred George C. Scott and Trish Van Devere.
Sidney Ramon Michaels was born in New York City. His parents divorced, and he grew up in the Brookline, Mass., home of his father, Max Michaels, a producer of burlesque shows and a theater manager in Boston. He served in the Coast Guard and then studied drama at Tufts U.
Michaels’ TV credits include 1967 adaptation of “Carousel” and a 1980 telepic, “Cry of the Innocent.”
He is survived by his wife, Louisette; a son and a daughter; a sister; and six grandchildren.