Fry, Christopher 1907-2005

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FRY, Christopher 1907-2005

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born December 18, 1907, in Bristol, England; died June 30, 2005, in Chichester, England. Writer. Fry was an award-winning English playwright best known for his 1952 work, This Lady's Not for Burning. Born Christopher Fry Harris, he later dropped his surname because he believed, mistakenly, that he was a descendant of prison reformer Elizabeth Fry. His father had died when he was very young, and he was raised by his mother, who managed to put him through Bedford Modern School. After a year spent as a kindergarten teacher, three years as a schoolmaster for the Hazelwood Preparatory School in Surrey, and another year as a secretary, Fry began to break into theater as an actor, director, and playwright. He was founding director of the Tunbridge Wells Repertory Players from 1932 to 1935, and by the mid-1930s started seeing some of his plays produced. Among his early works are Open Door (1936) and the pageant The Tower (1939). Fry continued to struggle some in the 1930s, and worked as a school magazine editor and lecturer through much of the later part of the decade. He returned to Tunbridge Wells in 1940, but with the onset of World War II Fry, a pacifist, became part of the Pioneer Corps, a noncombatant unit. With the war over, Fry returned to Tunbridge Wells for a couple years. After the release of his play A Phoenix Too Frequent in 1946, he was offered a job with the Arts Theatre Club in London, where he worked as a director and staff dramatist. It was while here that Fry finished his most popular play, This Lady's Not for Burning, which won the Shaw Prize Fund award and a New York Drama Critics Circle award and gained him a reputation as a talented writer. Much in demand by such actors as Richard Burton, Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, and Edith Evans, Fry repeated his success with such plays as Venus Observed (1950), A Sleep of Prisoners (1951), and The Dark Is Light Enough: A Winter Comedy (1954). However, when the younger, more experimental writers known as the "angry young men" gained prominence, Fry found his popularity waning. He earned some acclaim in Hollywood, adapting the works Ben Hur (1959) and Barabbas (1961) to the screen, but his activity as a writer continued to diminish through the 1960s and after. A main reason for this was the simple fact that Fry always found writing difficult, and he preferred to relax and enjoy his home and garden. Nevertheless, he continued to produce works sporadically, including such television programs as The Brontës of Haworth (1973) and Star over Bethlehem (1981), the play One Thing More; or, Caedmon Construed (1986), and the libretto for A Ringing of Bells: Conversation Piece (2001). In 2000, Fry received the Benson Silver medal from the Royal Society of Literature in recognition to his contributions to the theater.

OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Los Angeles Times, July 7, 2005, p. B11.

New York Times, July 5, 2005, p. A19.

Times (London, England), July 4, 2005, p. 49.

Washington Post, July 11, 2005, p. B4.