Robert Anderson, 'Tea and Sympathy' author, dies

NEW YORK (AP) - Playwright Robert Anderson, author of such
Broadway hits as "Tea and Sympathy" and "You Know I Can't Hear
You When the Water's Running," has died at age 91.
His stepdaughter, Mary-Kelly Busch, said Anderson died Monday of
pneumonia at his Manhattan home and had Alzheimer's disease for the
last few years.
Anderson also wrote Hollywood screenplays, TV scripts and
several novels, but it was his stage work that brought him the most
fame.
He's best known for "Tea and Sympathy," a drama about the
relationship between the wife of a headmaster at a New England prep
school and a student suspected of being gay.
The play, which opened on Broadway in 1953, starred Deborah Kerr
as the wife and John Kerr as the young man. Both actors repeated
their roles in the 1956 film version, which featured a screenplay
by Anderson and was directed by Vincent Minnelli.
Anderson's script contained an often quoted line, uttered by the
wife to the student about their affair: "Years from now, when you
talk of this - and you will - be kind."
His other big Broadway success was "You Know I Can't Hear You
When the Water's Running," a collection of four one-act comedies,
mostly about marriage, that opened in New York in 1967 and ran for
more than 700 performances. Featured in the cast were Martin
Balsam, George Grizzard, Eileen Heckart and Melinda Dillon.
Anderson's other major Broadway productions included "Silent
Night, Holy Night" (1959), which starred Henry Fonda and Barbara
Bel Geddes, and "I Never Sang for My Father" (1968) about a
contentious father-son relationship. The cast included Hal
Holbrook, Lillian Gish and Alan Webb.
His work in Hollywood included screenplays for "Until They
Sail" (1957), "The Nun's Story (1959), for which he received an
Academy Award nomination, and "The Sand Pebbles" (1966), a Steve
McQueen epic set in 1920s China.
In 1970s, Anderson turned to writing novels: "After" (1973)
and "Getting Up and Going Home" (1978), and he also wrote
extensively for television.
Born April 28, 1917, in New York, Anderson went to Harvard. He
served as a lieutenant in the Navy in the Pacific during World War
II. After the war, he studied with John Gassner at the New School's
Dramatic Workshop. Anderson's first Broadway effort was
contributing to a short-lived revue "Dance Me a Song" (1950),
whose cast included Wally Cox and Bob Fosse.
After his first wife, Phyllis Stohl, died in 1956, Anderson
married actress Teresa Wright in 1959. Though they divorced in
1978, the couple remained close friends until her death in 2005.
A memorial service is planned for Friday.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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