R.I.P.: Arthur Laurents, Broadway Legend

Gather ’round, young gaylings, it’s time for a bit of Gay History 101. Today we will learn about the passing of a community legend: Broadway queens everywhere are broken-hearted at the news that Arthur Laurents, the legendary writer/director of stage and screen, has died.

Laurents helped create some of the greatest musicals to be performed on Broadway, having helped write such shows as “Gypsy” and “West Side Story.” He also wrote film scripts–including “The Way We Were,” which solidified Barbra Streisand as a star, as well as the lesser-known but brilliant film “The Turning Point” starring Mikhail Baryshnikov, who younger generations may be surprised to know had an acting career before he was Carrie Bradshaw’s boyfriend in “Sex And The City.”

Laurents was known as being gay long before being “out” was a professional possibility in Hollywood. He dated Farley Granger, an actor best known at the time for starring in Alfred Hitchcock’s films, before settling down for 52 years with his beau, Tom Hatcher. Although his sexuality didn’t cause much of a scandal in the New York theater world, in the 1950’s Laurents was “blacklisted” in Hollywood thanks to the anti-Communist witchhunts led by Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Many Hollywood careers were ended by the blacklists; luckily Laurents proved he had little political interest in any way, communism or otherwise, and convinced the U.S. government to remove his name and allow him to go back to work.

Laurents launched the Broadway career of Barbra Streisand, when he directed her in a musical called “I Can Get If For You Wholesale.” The role was Streisand’s first on Broadway, and although the show has proven to be unmemorable, Streisand earned herself a Tony nomination.

According to CNN, Streisand recently made news with her planned return to the world of movie musicals, with interest in starring in (yet another?) screen adaptation of “Gypsy,”  saying she wanted to work with Laurents one more time (how morbid!) and that she has dreamed of playing the role of “Rose” for decades.  Athough Laurents originally agreed to making the film, Stephen Sondheim eventually killed the idea, saying the world does not need another film version of “Gypsy” to be made. Sondheim wrote the music lyrics for the show.

According to Hollywood blog Deadline.com, Laurents died in his sleep.  He was 93.