Arthur Laurents, Wrote ‘Gypsy’ and ‘West Side Story,’ Dies at 93

The author adapted his own novel for the movie “The Way We Were”

Arthur Laurents, the Tony-winning writer-director who wrote the Broadway classics "West Side Story" and "Gypsy," and the Barbra Streisand/Robert Redford movie, "The Way We Were," has died. He was 93.

He was the author of the 2000 memoir "Original Story By" and the 2009 "Mainly on Directing." He won the Tony for directing the 1984 "La Cage aux Folles." His 1968 "Hallelujah, Baby," won the Tony for best musical.

Born Arthur Levine — Laurents told New York Magazine in 2009 that he changed the name "to get a job. But that we don't talk about" — his first play, "Home of the Brave," was a look at a Jewish GI during World War II. Other plays came quickly after that 1945 show: "The Bird Cage" in 1950, "The Time of the Cuckoo" in 1952, "A Clearing in the Woods in 1957. And "West Side Story," also in 1957. "Story" had music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

The Army veteran could be contentious, and was known for sending angry letters.

Laurents, who was openly gay, was blacklisted during the McCarthy era.

His first effort as a director was 1960 play "Invitation to a March. Two years later, he directed "I Can Get It For You Wholesale," a musical, which starred Lillian Roth, Elliot Gould and the young Barbra Streisand.

Laurents's most recent screenplay was the 1997 "Anastasia," Twentieth Century Fox's animated movie about the Russian royal family. It grossed $139 million worldwide.

Just this year, he ruled out an updated "Gypsy" project.

In March, he told the Hartford Courant that a conversation with the musical's lyricist, Stephen Sondheim, convinced him there shouldn't be another "Gypsy" movie.

"He said, 'What is the point of it?' And I said, 'They have this terrible version with Rosalind Russell wearing those black and white shoes.' And then Sondheim told me something that he got from the British — and it's wonderful. He said, 'You want a record because the theater is ephemeral. But it's wrong. The theater's greatest essence is that it is ephemeral. You don't need a record. The fact that it's ephemeral means you can have different productions, different Roses on into infinity. So I don't want it now. I don't want a definitive record. I want it to stay alive."

Laurents was predeceased by his partner of 50 years, Tom Hatcher.