Arthur Laurents (1917-2011), interviewed on April 7, 2000 by Richard Wolinsky and Richard A. Lupoff, during the tour for his memoir, Original Story By …
Arthur Laurents was one of the giants of American culture. A playwright, librettist and director, he was one of the collaborators on two of the greatest musicals in the history of Broadway, West Side Story and Gypsy. In Hollywood, he was best known for the screenplays to The Way We Were and The Turning Point.
He spent most of World II in New York, working on propaganda films under George Cukor, A playwright with a huge hit after the war, The Time of the Cuckoo (which became the Katharine Hepbutn film Summertime), Laurents then moved to Hollywood where his career as a screenwriter was interrupted by the blacklist. He went to Europe but returned to write the screenplay for the Ingrid Bergman film, Anastasia.
Coming back to New York, he collaborated with Jerome Robbins, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim on West Side Story, then with Sondheim and Jule Styne on Gypsy. He also wrote the libretto for Jerry Herman’s hit, La Cage Aux Folles. Along the way, he continued to write plays and direct. His final two years saw two new plays and, at the age of 92, he directed a successful revival of West Side Story.
This interview was digitized, remastered and re-edited in 2016 by Richard Wolinsky. A shorter version aired on the Arts-Waves radio program.
Left: the creative team for West Side Story. Center: Richard Rodgers, Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim working on the ill-fated musical “Do I Hear a Waltz?” based on Laurents’ play “The Time of the Cuckoo.” Right: Poster for the original production of “West Side Story.”