Boland, Bridget 1913-1988

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BOLAND, Bridget 1913-1988

PERSONAL: Born March 13, 1913, in London, England; died January 19, 1988; daughter of John Pius Boland (an Irish MP). Education: Oxford University, B.A. (with honors), 1935.

CAREER: Writer, 1937-88. Military service: Auxiliary Territorial Force, 1941-46; became senior commander.

AWARDS, HONORS: Co-nominee for award from Writers Guild and winner of Academy Award for best screenplay, both 1969, both for Anne of the Thousand Days.



The Arabian Nights, first produced in Nottingham, England, 1948.

Cockpit (first produced in London, England, 1948), included in Plays of the Year 1, Elek (London, England), 1949.

The Damascus Blade, first produced in Edinburgh, Scotland, 1950.

The Return (three-act; first produced as "Journey to Earth" in Liverpool, England, 1952; produced as "The Return" in London, 1953), Samuel French (London, England), 1954.

The Prisoner (three-act; first produced in London, 1954), Dramatists Play Service, 1956.

Temple Folly (three-act comedy; first produced in London, 1951), Evans Brothers (London, England), 1958.

Gordon (first produced in Derby, England, 1961), included in Plays of the Year 25, Elek (London, England), 1962.

The Zodiac in the Establishment (first produced in Nottingham, England, 1963), M. Evans (London, England), 1963.

A Juan by Degrees (adapted from the play by Pierre Humblot), first produced in London, 1965.


The Wild Geese, Heinemann (London, England), 1938, reprint, 1988.

Portrait of a Lady in Love, Heinemann (London, England), 1942.

Caterina, Souvenir Press, 1975, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1976.


(With Maureen Boland) Old Wives' Lore for Gardeners, Bodley Head (London, England), 1976, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1977.

(With Maureen Boland) Gardener's Magic and Other Old Wives Lore, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1977.

At My Mother's Knee, Bodley Head (London, England), 1978.

(Editor, with Muriel St. Clare Byrne) The Lisle Letters: An Abridgement, foreword by Hugh Trevor-Roper, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1983.

(With Maureen Boland) Gardener's Lore: Planting, Potions, and Practical Wisdom (reprint of Old Wives' Lore for Gardeners and Gardener's Magic and Other Old Wives Lore), Ecco Press (Hopewell, NY), 1998.


(With A. R. Rawlinson) Gaslight, Anglo-American Films, 1940, re-released as Angel Street, Commercial Pictures, 1953.

(With A. R. Rawlinson) This England, World, 1941.

(With Robert Westerby, King Vidor, Mario Camerini, Ennio De Coneini, and Ivo Perilli) War and Peace (adapted from the novel by Leo Tolstoy), Paramount, 1956.

(With Barry Oringer) Damon and Pythias, released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1962.

(With John Hale) Anne of the Thousand Days (adapted from the play by Maxwell Anderson), Universal, 1969.

Also author of Sheba (radio play), 1954, and Beautiful Forever (teleplay), 1965.

ADAPTATIONS: The Prisoner was released as a film by Columbia, 1955.

SIDELIGHTS: Although Bridget Boland was born March 13, 1913, in London, England, she was the daughter of an Irish politician and thought of herself as Irish. She became an author of plays, screenplays, novels, and nonfiction, trekking the unusual path of a screenwriter who later wrote for the stage. In another departure from custom, Boland wrote about panoramic historical events rather than the domestic themes which many of her female contemporaries treated. Boland was probably best known for her published play The Prisoner, about a man's psychiatric degeneration from incarceration and interrogation. Boland also wrote the screenplays for several notable motion pictures, including the 1956 adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace and the 1969 film Anne of the Thousand Days, for which she won an Academy Award for best screenplay.

Boland was ahead of her time in her creative theatrics, such as the staging of the 1948 play Cockpit, which deals with displaced persons (D.P.) in Europe during World War II. By using the audience as part of the play as the refugees in a D.P. center she presaged the environmental theater movement that would take place off-Broadway during the 1960s. The audience members suffer discomfort as actors dressed as refugees and soldiers appear and play out their roles. When one of the refugees becomes ill and a Polish professor suggests he is suffering from the plague, soldiers prevent anyone from leaving the D.P. center. Finally the plague is called a false alarm and the audience/actors are allowed to leave from what was certainly a memorable evening.

Boland's play The Prisoner deals with the psychological interactions between a prisoner, a Catholic Cardinal, and his Communist party interrogator. It has been suggested that Boland was inspired by the real-life trial of Hungarian Cardinal Mindszenty and Darkness at Noon, a novel with a similar theme by Arthur Koestler. Nevertheless, Boland's work presents a new experience of the captor-captive relationship, with its subtle attempts at manipulation by both actors. In 1955 the play was adapted for film which starred Alec Guinness, and it provided the basis for the popular 1960s television series of the same title.

In addition to writing several dozen plays and screenplays, the prolific Boland penned novels and nonfiction works. Among her publications are the novels The Wild Geese, a historical tale told through letters, Portrait of a Lady in Love, and Caterina. She also produced the memoir At My Mother's Knee and several volumes about gardening with her sister Maureen Boland: Old Wives' Lore for Gardeners and Gardener's Magic and Other Old Wives Lore. The gardening book found new life in 1998 with a tandem edition reprint. The last work Boland published before her death in 1988 was a one-book abridgement of a six-volume collection of letters written by Arthur Plantagenet, the maternal uncle of the English king Henry VIII. Thus The Lisle Letters: An Abridgement, edited by Boland and Muriel St. Clare Byrne, makes available to researchers and interested readers primary-source letters from Tudor England.



Library Journal, May 1, 1991, review of The Wild Geese, p. 112.

New Statesman, October 18, 1985, Alan Brien, review of The Lisle Letters: An Abridgment, pp. 26-27.

Publishers Weekly, August 12, 1983, review of The Lisle Letters, p. 61.

Times (London), January 27, 1988.

Times Educational Supplement, July 10, 1981, review of Old Wives' Lore for Gardeners, p. 25; May 27, 1988, review of The Wild Geese, p. B2.*