Fry, Christopher, 1907-2005

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Epithet: dramatist

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000001026.0x00002e

Christopher Fry was born on 18 December 1907. He was originally named Arthur Hammond Harris and during his childhood adopted the surname Fry from his maternal grandmother. In his late twenties he became known as Christopher Fry. He went to Bedford Modern School, where he wrote his first play at eleven and his first verse drama at eighteen. He worked for a short period as an actor and teacher and then became director of a repertory theatre in Tunbridge Wells in 1934, directing the English premiere of George Bernard Shaw 's Village Wooing . He also worked as a composer lyricist .

In 1938 Fry wrote The Boy with a Cart after being invited by a Sussex vicar to celebrate St Cuthman, who pushed his mother from Cornwall to Steyning in a wheelbarrow. In 1939 he wrote The Tower based on the history of Tewkesbury Abbey . Both these plays are said to be influenced by T.S. Eliot 's Murder in the Cathedral . During the war he spent four years as a non-combatant in the Pioneer Corps as well as being the director of the Oxford Repertory Players in 1940. In 1946 A Phoenix Too Frequent was staged at the Mercury Theatre in London and featured Paul Scofield . It was based on the story by Petronius about a widow who is persuaded not to lock herself away in her husband's tomb. In 1946 he also wrote an early version of The Firstborn telling the story of the struggle between Moses and the Pharaoh in Egypt . He then wrote Thor with Angels about the spread of Christianity for the Canterbury Festival in 1948.

In 1946 Alec Clunes commissioned The Lady's Not For Burning for the Arts Theatre Club, which features a soldier who wants to be hanged and a suspected witch who does not want to be burned. First performed in 1948, it then had a long run in London 's West End with John Gielgud, Pamela Brown, Richard Burton and Claire Bloom . Seen by some as an important return to verse drama, others including Kenneth Tynan saw it as backward looking. In 1950 it transferred to New York 's Broadway with Burton. In 1950 Fry also wrote a translation of Jean Anouilh 's L'Invitation au chateau as Ring Round the Moon for Peter Brook . He also wrote Venus Observed for Laurence Olivier, in which an astronomer asks his son to choose his own stepmother from three former mistresses. In 1950 he wrote A Sleep of Prisoners for the Festival of Britain in 1951, which featured four prisoners of war who recreate Old Testament stories in their dreams. In 1953 he wrote the screenplay for The Beggar's Opera directed by Peter Brook and with Olivier in the lead role. In 1954 he wrote The Dark is Light Enough, the third part of his seasonal plays, starring Edith Evans, set as the Hungarians rise up against Austrian rule in the 19th century. In 1955 his translations of Anouilh's L'alouette as The Lark and Giraudoux's La guerre de Troi n'aura pas lieu as Tiger at the Gates were both performed in London 's West End.

In the late 1950s Fry went to Rome to help re-write the screenplay for Ben Hur . He also wrote the screenplay for Barabbas (1962) and for The Bible (1966). He continued writing plays, although his type of verse drama had fallen out of favour since the rise of realistic prose drama in the 1950s. In 1961 he wrote Curtmantle about the conflict between Henry II and Thomas Becket and in 1970, the fourth season play, A Yard of Sun about family reunions after a war. He also translated Giraudoux's Pour Lucrece as Duel of Angels in 1960 and Judith in 1962. In addition, he translated Henrik Ibsen 's Peer Gynt in 1970 and Edmond Rostand 's Cyrano de Bergerac in 1975, both for the Chichester Festival Theatre . A Ringing of Bells was commissioned by his old school in 2000 and was put on at the National Theatre the following year.

In 1962 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and in 1999 The Lady's Not For Burning was voted as one of the hundred best plays of the twentieth century in a National Theatre poll. He died on 30 June 2005.

From the guide to the Christopher Fry, playwright: papers, 1902-2008, (V & A Department of Theatre and Performance)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Fry, Christopher, 1907-2005. Letter, 1934 Feb. 2, Southborough, to "Beatrice," London. University of Michigan
referencedIn Richard Matthews Collection of E. Martin Browne Materials, 1920s - 1970s V & A Department of Theatre and Performance
creatorOf Canadian Players Collection (University of Guelph). King Lear / by William Shakespeare ; directed by David Gardner, 1961-1962 - house program. University of Guelph
creatorOf Stratford Festival Collection. Crawling Arnold / by Jules Feiffer ; directed by Brian Petchey, 1967 - house program. University of Guelph
referencedIn Nora Nicholson Archive, 1879-Apr 25 1988 V & A Department of Theatre and Performance
creatorOf Shaw Festival Collection (University of Guelph). The lady's not for Burning / by Christopher Fry ; directed by Christopher Newton, 1998 - video. University of Guelph
creatorOf Shaw Festival Collection (University of Guelph). The Lady's not for burning / by Christopher Fry ; directed by Christopher Newton ; designed by Leslie Frankish, 1998 - house program. University of Guelph
referencedIn MS Mus. 289. SIR MICHAEL TIPPETT: music manuscripts; 1952 – [1970?] . Purchased at Sotheby’s, 4 Dec. 1998 (lots 315-317).ff. 43.1. ff. 1-11. ‘Dance, Clarion Air, a madrigal for five voices’ (words, Christopher Fry), from ‘A Garland for the Queen’; 19..., 1951-1971 British Library
creatorOf Josephine Barrington Collection. Ring Round The Moon / by Jean Anouilh ; adapted by Christopher Fry ; directed by Leonard Crainford, 1953 - house program. University of Guelph
creatorOf Windt, Valentine, 1901-1955. Valentine Windt papers, 1922-1955. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
creatorOf CentreStage Theatre Archives. A Yard of Sun / by Christopher Fry ; technical drawings by Les Lawrence, 1970 - technical drawings. University of Guelph
referencedIn Ward Morehouse papers, 1877-1966, 1924-1966 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
creatorOf Correspondence of Irving Wardle with correspondents with surnames A-K, letters to him unless otherwise stated:Lindsay Gordon Anderson, including a letter from Wardle, 1973-1986, Sir Alan Ayckbourn, 1977-1979 Edward Bond, 1976 Peter Stephen Paul Br..., 1966-2006 British Library
referencedIn Kaye Webb Collection, 1925-1994 Seven Stories, the Centre for Children's Books
referencedIn TIPPETT COLLECTION. Vol. XXXI. Pencil score. ff. 16. Binding of orange cloth.Christopher Fry, dramatist: `Dance, Clarion Air', and `Crown of the Year' by M. Tippett , to words by Christopher Fry: 1952, 1958. British Library
creatorOf Browne, Maurice, 1881-1955. Ellen Van Volkenburg-Maurice Browne general correspondence, 1911- University of Michigan
creatorOf Shaw Festival Collection (University of Guelph). The Lady's Not For Burning / by Christopher Fry ; directed by Christopher Newton, 1998 - performance files. University of Guelph
referencedIn Salisbury, Leah Javne, 1893-1975. Papers, 1925-1975. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
creatorOf Stephen Oliver: 'A Phoenix too Frequent' and 'The Enchanted Shirt', 1970 British Library
creatorOf Theatre Plus Archives. Tiger at the Gates / by Jean Giraudoux ; translated by Christopher Fry ; directed by Marion Andre, 1985 - performance file. University of Guelph
creatorOf Canadian Players Collection (University of Guelph). The Lady's Not for Burning / by Christopher Fry ; directed by David Gardner, 1958 - house program. University of Guelph
referencedIn Paul Scofield Collection, 1807 - 2010 V & A Department of Theatre and Performance
creatorOf Tippett, Michael, 1905-1998. Dance, clarion air : a madrigal for five voices / text by Christopher Fry ; music by Michael Tippett. New York Public Library System, NYPL
referencedIn Robert A. Wilson slides, 1956-1969 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
referencedIn Gore Vidal papers, 1875-2004 (inclusive), 1936-2000 (bulk). Houghton Library, , Harvard College Library, Harvard University
referencedIn TIPPETT COLLECTION. Vol. XXXII (ff. 20). Ink score of movements 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, with autograph notes (ff. 17-20) giving metronome markings and relating to the preparation of parts for nos. 8 and 9.Christopher Fry, dramatist: `Dance, Clarion Air', a... British Library
creatorOf Fry, Christopher, 1907-. Plays. Greater Victoria Public Library
creatorOf Christopher Fry, playwright: papers, 1902-2008 V & A Department of Theatre and Performance
referencedIn John Hall Papers, 1950-1997. Columbia University. Rare Book and Manuscript Library,
referencedIn TIPPETT COLLECTION. Vol. XXI. 'Dance, Clarion Air', madrigal from 'A Garland for the Queen' (words by Christopher Fry); 1952. Pencil score. Published in 1953. ff. i+12. 300 x 234mm.Christopher Fry, dramatist: `Dance, Clarion Air', and `Crown of the Y..., 1952 British Library
creatorOf Fry, Christopher, 1907-2005. Siege; a comedy in three acts [1934]. University of Michigan
referencedIn E. Martin (Elliott Martin) Browne papers, 1925-1975. Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University.
referencedIn Leah Salisbury Papers, 1925-1975. Columbia University. Rare Book and Manuscript Library,
referencedIn Stephen Oliver Collection, 1955-1995 British Library: Music Collections
creatorOf Wickham Steed Papers Vol. xxxvii. (ff. 189).1. ff. 1-35v. Letters to Joan Stevenson; 1951-1954.2. ff. 36-166. Correspondence of Joan Stevenson as literary executrix of H. W. Steed; 1956-19893. ff. 167-189. Miscellaneous correspondence, etc., of Joan ..., 1939-1989 British Library
referencedIn Marx, Erica, 1909-1969. Papers, 1926-1966. Washington University in St. Louis, .
referencedIn TIPPETT COLLECTION (PART IV). Vol. xviii. 'Robert of Sicily', children's opera in ten scenes (words by Christopher Fry), music arranged by Tippett from traditional sources; 1938.ff. ii+29.1. ff. ii-14. Typewritten libretto. Overall size 263 x 205mm.2..., 1938 British Library
referencedIn Charles Marowitz collection of the Malibu Stage Company, Bulk, 1990-2002, 1978-2003 Pepperdine University. Special Collections and University Archives.
referencedIn Gregory, Alyse, 1884-1967. Alyse Gregory letters to Valentine Ackland, 1942-1962. Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn Sir, Michael Redgrave, Archive, 1890-1996 V&A Museum: Department of Theatre and Performance
creatorOf Fry, Christopher, 1907-2005. Letter, 1952 Jan. 10, W.I., to [Maurice] Browne [n.p.]. University of Michigan
creatorOf Fry, Christopher, 1907-2005. Letter, 1934 May 9, Southborough, Kent, to [Ellen] Van Volkenburg, London. University of Michigan
referencedIn TIPPETT COLLECTION (PART IV). Vol. viii. Psalm, 'The Gateway', for chorus and small orchestra (words, Christopher Fry); 1930. Copy ink score with autograph pencil annotations.ff. ii+35. 367 x 277mm.Christopher Fry, dramatist: Musical works by Sir M. ..., 1930 British Library
creatorOf Pudney, John, 1909-1977. Papers, 1850-1977 (bulk 1926-1976). Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Lowell-Adams House Printers papers, 1964-1972 (inclusive) 1964-1966 (bulk). Houghton Library, , Harvard College Library, Harvard University
creatorOf CentreStage Theatre Archives. A Yard of Sun / by Christopher Fry ; directed by Michael MacOwan, 1970 - performance file. University of Guelph
referencedIn Lucille Lortel papers, 1902-2000 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
creatorOf Theatre Plus Archives. Tiger as the Gates / by Jean Giraudoux ; translated by Christopher Fry, 1985 - house program. University of Guelph
referencedIn Hall, John (John Clifford), 1925-. John Hall papers, 1950-1997. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn American Repertory Theatre (Cambridge, Mass.). Prompt books and related materials, 1961-2006. Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University.
referencedIn TIPPETT COLLECTION (PART IV). Vols. xix, xx. 'Seven at one Stroke', play for children (words by Christopher Fry), music arranged by Tippett from traditional sources; 1939.Two volumes., 1939 British Library
referencedIn Macy, George. George Macy papers, 1916-1970. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
creatorOf Langton, Basil. Theater interview transcripts, 1960-1962. Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Collection of Research Material on Edith Evans, actress, 1910s-1970s V & A Department of Theatre and Performance
creatorOf Browne, E. Martin (Elliott Martin), 1900-. E. Martin (Elliott Martin) Browne papers, 1925-1975. Harvard University, Houghton Library
referencedIn Papers of J.C. Trewin, 1783-1990 Reading University : Special Collections Services
referencedIn Souvenir programs of motion pictures, 1915-1978. Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University.
referencedIn Tazewell family. Papers, 1694-1816. Library of Virginia
referencedIn Souvenir programs for theatrical productions, 1906-2005. Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard College Library, Harvard University.
referencedIn Robin Dalton Correspondence, 1960-2006, undated (bulk 1968-1979) Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
referencedIn Gregory, Alyse, 1884-1967. Alyse Gregory letters to Valentine Ackland, 1942-1962. Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
referencedIn Eliot, T. S. (Thomas Stearns), 1888-1965. Typed letter signed : London, to Mrs. Walter Edmonds, 1952 Aug. 15. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf CentreStage Theatre Archives (University of Guelph). A Yard of Sun / by Christopher Fry ; directed by Michael MacOwan, 1970 - house program. University of Guelph
Role Title Holding Repository
Direct Relationships
Relation Name
associatedWith American Repertory Theatre (Cambridge, Mass.). corporateBody
associatedWith Browne, E. Martin (Elliott Martin), 1900- person
associatedWith Browne, Maurice, 1881-1955. person
associatedWith Canadian Players Collection (University of Guelph) corporateBody
associatedWith Canadian Players Collection (University of Guelph) corporateBody
associatedWith CentreStage Theatre Archives. corporateBody
associatedWith CentreStage Theatre Archives. corporateBody
associatedWith CentreStage Theatre Archives (University of Guelph) corporateBody
associatedWith Dalton, Robin, 1920- person
associatedWith Eliot, T. S. (Thomas Stearns), 1888-1965. person
associatedWith Forbes, Bryan., b. 1926 person
associatedWith Gregory, Alyse, 1884-1967. person
associatedWith Hall, John (John Clifford), 1925- person
associatedWith J. C. Trewin, 1908-1990 person
associatedWith Josephine Barrington Collection. corporateBody
associatedWith Langton, Basil. person
associatedWith Lortel, Lucille person
correspondedWith Lowell-Adams House Printers. corporateBody
associatedWith Macy, George. person
associatedWith Marowitz, Charles person
correspondedWith Marx, Erica, 1909-1969. person
associatedWith Matthews, Richard person
associatedWith Morehouse, Ward, 1898-1966 person
associatedWith Nicholson, Nora., 1892-1973 person
associatedWith Pudney, John, 1909-1977. person
correspondedWith Redgrave, Michael person
associatedWith Saddler, Donald person
associatedWith Salisbury, Leah Javne, 1893-1975. person
associatedWith Scofield, Paul person
associatedWith Shaw Festival Collection (University of Guelph) corporateBody
associatedWith Shaw Festival Collection (University of Guelph) corporateBody
associatedWith Shaw Festival Collection (University of Guelph) corporateBody
associatedWith Stratford Festival Collection. corporateBody
associatedWith Tazewell family. family
associatedWith Theatre Plus Archives. corporateBody
associatedWith Theatre Plus Archives. corporateBody
associatedWith Tippett, Michael, 1905-1998. person
associatedWith Van Volkenburg, Ellen. person
associatedWith Vidal, Gore, 1925- person
associatedWith Webb, Kaye person
associatedWith Wells Repertory Players. corporateBody
associatedWith Wilson, Robert A. (Robert Alfred), 1922- person
associatedWith Windt, Valentine, 1901-1955. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Subject
Dramatists
Theater--Great Britain--History--20th century
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1907-12-18

Death 2005-06-30

Britons

English

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