Pulitzer Prize-Winning Playwright Frank D. Gilroy Dies At 89

September 14, 2015

In 1964, Frank D. Gilroy’s The Subject Was Roses opened on Broadway. The play landed Gilroy theater’s triple crown: a Pulitzer Prize, a Tony Award and a Drama Critics’ Circle Award.

Gilroy died on Saturday at age 89. In a statement, his family said he passed away of natural causes.

The Subject Was Roses, about a World War II veteran returning home to the Bronx, starred Martin Sheen in the role of Timmy and Irene Dailey and Jack Albertson as his parents.

There are just three characters in the play, all members of the Cleary family: mother Nettie, father John and son Timmy, who finds he’s left the battlefields of Europe to become a prisoner of his parents’ war of regret and recrimination.

Sheen was just 23 years old when The Subject Was Roses opened on Broadway. He was nominated for a Tony Award.

“It was the biggest success of my life,” Sheen said in a 2010 NPR interview, “and the most important.”

Sheen, 75, is the only surviving member of the original cast.

In 2010, Sheen had the chance to do the play again in Los Angeles. This time he played the young veteran’s father.

Gilroy came to LA for the production. He told NPR’s Ina Jaffe, “I never expected Marty here in Los Angeles playing the father of the son he used to be. It’s a joy, it’s a joy.”

In 1968, Gilroy adapted The Subject Was Roses for the big screen. It starred Sheen, Jack Albertson and Patricia Neal. Albertson won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Gilroy served in the Army from 1943 to 1946. He said the play was not a factual representation of what happened when he returned to his family after the war.

“I wasn’t that insightful (then),” he explains.

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