Jay Presson Allen


Screenwriter

About

Also Known As
Jay Presson, Sarah Schiff, Jacqueline Presson
Birth Place
Fort Worth, Texas, USA
Born
March 03, 1922
Died
May 01, 2006
Cause of Death
Stroke

Biography

In the 1960s and 70s, this highly skilled scenarist (excelling in adaptations) turned out a number of superior scripts with strong, female protagonists, roles which often won awards for the actresses portraying them (e.g., "Cabaret" 1972). A successful playwright ("The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie," "40 Carats," "Tru"), Allen created and was executive producer on the highly respected televi...

Family & Companions

Lewis M Allen
Husband
Producer. Married March 12, 1955; second husband; has produced stage shows like "Annie", "My One and Only", "The Big Love" and "Tru".

Bibliography

"Just Tell Me What You Want"
Jay Presson Allen, Dutton (1975)
"Spring Riot"
Jay Presson, Rinehart (1948)

Notes

Received the Humanities Award (1976)

Biography

In the 1960s and 70s, this highly skilled scenarist (excelling in adaptations) turned out a number of superior scripts with strong, female protagonists, roles which often won awards for the actresses portraying them (e.g., "Cabaret" 1972). A successful playwright ("The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie," "40 Carats," "Tru"), Allen created and was executive producer on the highly respected television series "Family" (ABC, 1976-80) and since 1980 has also produced or served as executive producer on several interesting features (i.e., "Prince of the City" 1981; "Deathtrap" 1982).

Billed as Jay Presson, she began her career as an actress with a featured role in "An Angel Comes to Brooklyn" (1948), but soon turned to writing. Her first novel, "Spring Riot" was published in 1948 and she spent much of the 50s scripting episodes of TV shows like "Philco Playhouse" and "Playhouse 90." After her 1955 marriage to producer Lewis M Allen, she began being billed as Jay Presson Allen. Alfred Hitchcock tapped her to adapt the 1964 thriller "Marnie." Her stock rose with her adaptation of her own 1966 play "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" (1969), which provided a tour de force vehicle for Maggie Smith, who won the Best Actress Oscar. Allen reteamed with Smith for "Travels With My Aunt" (1972), which earned another Best Actress nod for the actress. That same year, the screenwriter triumphed with "Cabaret," adapted from the stage musical. Brilliantly directed by Bob Fosse, "Cabaret" was acclaimed as one of the few successful stage-to-screen transfers. The musical numbers were mostly confined to the stages of the Kit Kat Club and the surrounding drama set in 30s Nazi-era Germany was compelling. Nominated for ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Screenplay, it won eight, including Best Director, Best Actress (Liza Minnelli) and Best Supporting Actor (Joel Grey). Allen went on to script another musical vehicle for a star: the sequel "Funny Lady" (1975) for Barbra Streisand. While not as successful as 1968's "Funny Girl," it nevertheless had its moments, particular in the witty repartee between Brice and husband Billy Rose (James Caan), although critics carped that the script was a by-the-numbers romance. After executive producing the modest feminist tale "It's My Turn" (1980), Allen teamed with Sidney Lumet for the screen version of her novel "Just Tell Me What You Want" (1980). A romantic comedy, the film featured fine performances by Alan King and Ali MacGraw and is recalled as the final screen appearance of Myrna Loy. Although often plunging deeply into the emotional lives of her characters, Allen was at her darkest with Lumet's "Prince of the City" (1981), which centered on police corruption.

Allen's best known small screen work is perhaps "Family," but she also created the short-lived 1988 ABC series "Hothouse," about life at a medical center in a serene country setting. An adaptation of her one-person play "Tru," which starred Robert Morse as Truman Capote, aired in 1992 as part of PBS' "American Playhouse."

Allen appeared in the 1995 documentary "The Celluloid Closet" discussing the images of homosexuals in films as several of her scripts featured overt or closeted gays. "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" had lesbian undertones. "Cabaret" was ripe with gay characters, including Michael York's bisexual lead. Roddy McDowall played gay in "Funny Lady." "Family" was one of the first TV series to tackle to topic of homosexuality: in one episode, the son discovers his best friend is gay, while in another, the daughter discovers her favorite teacher is a lesbian and even questions her own sexuality.

Life Events

1945

Screen acting debut, "An Angel Comes to Brooklyn"

1948

Published first novel, "Spring Riot"

1964

Screenwriting debut, "Marnie"

1966

First stage success, the London production of "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie", adapted from Muriel Spark's novel (began adaptation in 1962)

1969

Wrote Broadway boulevard comedy "Forty Carats"

1969

Adapted her play "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" for the screen

1972

First Oscar nomination for screen adaptation of "Cabaret"

1973

Scripted the TV-movie, "The Borrowers" (NBC)

1976

Was creator and executive producer of TV series, "Family" (ABC)

1980

First film as executive producer, "It's My Turn"

1980

Began first of three collaborations with Sidney Lumet, "Just Tell Me What You Want"; wrote screenplay adapted from her novel; also served as producer

1981

Co-wrote (with Lumet) screenplay for "Prince of the City"; earned second Oscar nomination

1988

Created and executive produced "Hothouse" (ABC)

1990

Used pseudonym Sarah Schiff for screenwriting credit on remake of "Lord of the Flies"

1990

Wrote one-man show "Tru"; produced on Broadway starring Robert Morse

1990

With daughter Brooke, wrote the one-person show "The Big Love"; produced on Broadway, starring Tracey Ullman

1992

Adapted stage play "Tru" for PBS' "American Playhouse"

Videos

Movie Clip

Deathtrap (1982) - It's The Worst Play I've Ever Seen Director Sidney Lumet opens at the Music Box, where the original play by Ira Levin ran for years, Michael Caine as playwright Sidney, watching the opening of his latest flop, Dyan Cannon his daffy wife on the phone, Joe Silver his producer, in Deathtrap,1982, co-starring Christopher Reeve.
Deathtrap (1982) - My Spiritual Child Desperate playwright Sidney (Michael Caine) picks up Clifford (Christopher Reeve), whom he's invited to discuss his own brilliant first play, his wife (Dyan Cannon) looking for signs he was kidding about killing the author and stealing his work, in Sidney Lumet's adaptation of Deathtrap, 1982.
Deathtrap (1982) - My Heart Won't Take It All in good fun, washed-up playwright Sidney (Michael Caine), whom we fear might actually murder his former seminar student Clifford (Christopher Reeve) and steal his play, has tricked him into trying out some handcuffs, his wife (Dyan Cannon) close to panic, in Deathtrap, 1982.
Marnie (1964) - Marion Holland Margaret "Marnie" Edgar (Tippi Hedren), whom we've just met, evidently disposes of an identity, as her director (Alfred Hitchcock) makes his cameo appearance in a hotel corridor, in an early scene from Marnie, 1964.
Marnie (1964) - Too Blonde Hair Marnie (Tippi Hedren), whose sinister behavior is so far only partially revealed, visits mom Bernice (Louise Latham) and is disappointed to find her doting on her young rival Jessie (Kimberly Beck), in an early scene from Alfred Hitchcock's Marnie, 1964.
Marnie (1964) - Instinctual Behavior Bachelor millionaire publisher Rutland (Sean Connery) and new secretary "Mrs. Taylor" (Tippi Hedren, the probably-deranged title character) review a typing assignment as her fear of thunder, lightning and colors comes to the fore in Alfred Hitchcock's Marnie, 1964.
Cabaret (1972) - Mein Herr The M-C (Joel Grey) calls Sally Bowles (Liza Minnelli) to the stage at the Kit-Kat Club, where she performs Mein Herr, written for the film by John Kander and Fred Ebb, in Bob Fosse's Cabaret, 1972.
Cabaret (1972) - Maybe This Time Sally (Liza Minnelli), with Brian (Michael York) after a successful tryst, cut with her performance of Maybe This Time by John Kander and Fred Ebb, in Bob Fosse's Cabaret, 1972.
Travels With My Aunt (1972) - Perhaps You Find Religion Toting the ashes of the woman he believed to be his mother, Henry (Alec McCowen) is hustled away by his previously-thought-dead "Aunt" Augusta (Maggie Smith) to her London flat where he meets her live-in "Wordsworth," (Louis Gossett Jr.), early in George Cukor's Travels With My Aunt, 1972.
Travels With My Aunt (1972) - That Sort Of Scandal Tending dahlias in suburban London, bank manager Henry (Alec McCowen) takes a call from aunt Augusta (Maggie Smith) warning that police may be seeking her boyfriend's contraband mingled with the ashes of his newly-deceased mother, in Travels With My Aunt, 1972, from the Graham Greene novel.
Just Tell Me What You Want (1980) -- I Have A Perfect Bite Ali McGraw narrates, introducing Alan King as her industrialist lover, and Myrna Loy in her last movie role as his veteran girl-Friday, leading into the credits for director Sidney Lumet’s comedy, written by his frequent collaborator Jay Presson Allen, Just Tell Me What You Want, 1980.
Funny Lady (1975) - Blind Date From an opening sequence with highlights from Funny Girl, 1968, an original tune by John Kander and Fred Ebb, Barbra Streisand reprising her role as Fanny Brice, this time on Depression-era Broadway, co-stars Royce Wallace and Roddy McDowall in support, in Funny Lady, 1975.

Trailer

Family

Albert Jeffrey Presson
Father
Merchant.
May Presson
Mother
Buyer.
Brooke Allen
Daughter
Playwright. Collaborated with mother on play, "The Big Love" (1990).

Companions

Lewis M Allen
Husband
Producer. Married March 12, 1955; second husband; has produced stage shows like "Annie", "My One and Only", "The Big Love" and "Tru".

Bibliography

"Just Tell Me What You Want"
Jay Presson Allen, Dutton (1975)
"Spring Riot"
Jay Presson, Rinehart (1948)

Notes

Received the Humanities Award (1976)