Peter Stone

For other uses, see Peter Stone (disambiguation).
Peter Stone
Born (1930-02-27)February 27, 1930
Los Angeles, California
Died April 26, 2003(2003-04-26) (aged 73)
Manhattan, New York
Cause of death pulmonary fibrosis
Spouse(s) Mary
Relatives David (brother)

Peter Hess Stone[1] (February 27, 1930 – April 26, 2003) was an American writer for theater, television and movies. Stone is perhaps best remembered by the general public for the screenplays he wrote or co-wrote in the mid-1960s, Charade (1963), Father Goose (1964), and Mirage (1965).

Life and career

Early life

Stone was born in Los Angeles to Jewish parents. His mother, Hilda (née Hess), was a film writer, and his father, John Stone (born Saul Strumwasser), was the writer and producer of many silent films, including Tom Mix, Buck Jones, Shirley Temple and Charlie Chan movies.[1][2]

Education and stage work

When Stone was 15, his parents took him to see Mexican Hayride[3] starring Bobby Clark at the Hazard's Pavilion. Stone saw Clark throw his hat on a hat tree 100 feet away, and, at that moment, knew he wanted to work in theatre.[4] He graduated from University High School in Los Angeles, attended Bard College starting in 1947.[3] While at Bard, Stone wrote two plays that were both produced and performed at the school.[5]

After Stone left Bard, his mother (still married) eloped with a Hungarian literary agent (also married) to Paris.[3] While in Paris, they both settled their divorces and got married to each other. Stone describes this as "...a really great opportunity came to me through what should have been emotionally wrenching, but wasn't", stating that his mother hated Hollywood and was finally happy. After visiting them in the late 1940s, Stone lived in and around Paris for about thirteen years. Stone worked for CBS Radio while overseas, where one of the stories he covered was Grace Kelly's wedding to Rainier III, Prince of Monaco. Not too long after this, Stone got married.[3]

In 1953, Stone saw a play by Jean Paul Satre called Kean, adapted from the play by Alexandre Dumas based on the life of Edmund Kean. The Broadway singer and actor Alfred Drake was keen to make Kean into a musical, so much so that his agent (who was also Stone's agent) became the producer.[3] In 1961 Kean premiered on Broadway, with music and lyrics by Robert Wright and George Forrest, and Stone as playwright. He was hesitant to write for a musical, even though he loved them and saw them: "I did not see myself as doing that...and then an opportunity arose...I just wanted to be on Broadway". Stone needed some help, so he consulted Frank Loesser. Stone said of him, "terrible talented, successful and sophisticate man", when asking Loesser where songs went and other questions about musical structure, and said he was "more than helpful, he was inspiring".[4]

Stone's only non-musical work was a play called The Last Station, later retitled Full Circle, co-written with Erich Maria Remarque. The two men were introduced by Warner LeRoy.[3]

He won Tony Awards for his books for the Broadway musicals Titanic, Woman of the Year and 1776.[6]

Film & Television work

Stone sold his first script to Studio One in 1956.[7] He wrote two episodes of the 1961 television series The Asphalt Jungle and won an Emmy for a 1962 episode of The Defenders.[8]

Stone's first film script was Charade (1963), which he turned into a novel at the suggestion of his agent Robert Lance. Stone said he "submitted everywhere and nobody wanted it".[3] After it was made into a novel, it was published, and even portions of it were pre-printed in Redbook. Stone sold the script to Stanley Donen, whom he chose because "One was he was the only person who hadn't seen it before and I felt silly selling it to the people who rejected it. Two, It got me out of New York, which at that point I wanted to, I'd been there along time with Kean. And three, Stanley got stars, and I had written with Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in mind".[3] After the success of Charade, Stone signed an exclusive five-picture deal with Universal Studios.[9] Stone would go on to write Father Goose (1964), which won the Oscar for best screenplay in 1965. Father Goose is a fairly conventional comedy, but the other films share a common theme and a style of screenwriting. Primarily, they attempt a blend of comedy, suspense, and romance. He also wrote Mirage (1965).

A decade before Brian De Palma earned a reputation exploiting Hitchcockian motifs, Stone's work in the 1960s employed Hitchcock-like narratives, even while the director was still an active film maker. Hitchcock's influence is especially evident in Edward Dmytryk's Mirage, a suspense-mystery that Stone adapted from the Howard Fast novel Fallen Angel. The narrative has Gregory Peck suffering from "unconscious amnesia" while dodging bullets in downtown New York. Although shot in black-and-white, many of its themes and images are reminiscent of Vertigo.


Stone used several fairly transparent pseudonyms in his career. As 'Pierre Marton' (literally 'Peter Stone' in French, as well as an homage to his stepfather George Marton) he wrote, or co-wrote, Arabesque, Skin Game and the 1976 TV film One Of My Wives Is Missing. When Charade was remade as The Truth About Charlie, Stone was credited on-screen as 'Peter Joshua', one of the names used by Cary Grant in the original film.

Dramatists' Guilds presidency

For 18 years, Stone served as the member-elected president of the Dramatists Guild of America from 1981 to March 24, 1999. He resigned his presidency so a "new crew could take over."[10]

Death and postmortem

Stone died of pulmonary fibrosis on April 26, 2003 in Manhattan, New York. He was survived by his wife, Mary, and brother, David.[11] On February 27, 2004, shortly after his death, he was posthumously inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame. Honoring him at the induction ceremony was his close friend, actress Lauren Bacall.[12]

Shortly after Stone's death, in a memorial ceremony held June 30, 2003, at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, it was observed that the two most famous ships of all time were Noah's Ark and the Titanic, and that Stone had written Broadway musicals about both of them (Noah's Ark being the topic of Two by Two).

In 2011, one of his projects was completed with Thomas Meehan, and Death Takes a Holiday was produced off-Broadway with a score by Maury Yeston.

Personal life

Stone was born to John Stone (born Saul Strumwasser) and Hilda (née Hess). She was a Bavarian Jew from Bamberg, but was born in Mexico (her father dodged the draft back in the 1870s) and lived there for five years with her family til all foreign national were kicked out in the Mexican Revolution of 1910.[3] Stone has a brother David, who was a World War II veteran, serving with the U.S. Navy.[3]


Stone is among that small group of writers who have won acclaim in stage, screen, and television by winning a Tony, an Oscar, and an Emmy.[6] In 1964, Stone won an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for his screenplay for Charade.[5]





  1. 1 2 "Peter Stone Biography (1930-)". film reference. 2014. Retrieved March 22, 2014.
  2. Peter Stone on the Internet Movie Database
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 "Peter Stone: [interview]". New York Public Library. June 11, 2015.
  4. 1 2 "The Musical Book Writer (Career Guides)". American Theatre Wing. Retrieved 2015-06-09.
  5. 1 2 "Obituary: Peter Stone". The Independent. May 1, 2003.
  6. 1 2 "Peter Stone, Tony Award-Winning Librettist of Titanic, 1776, Dead at 73". Playbill News. April 27, 2003.
  7. "Peter Stone". New York Times. 2010. Retrieved November 1, 2015.
  8. "Peter Stone, Award-Winning Writer of '1776,' Dies at 73", New York Times, April 28, 2003.
  9. FILMLAND EVENTS: Peter Stone Dealt Five by Universal Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 21 Nov 1964: 18.
  10. "Peter Stone Steps Down as Dramatists Guild President; Weidman Elected". Playbill. March 24, 1999. Retrieved August 28, 2014.
  11. "Peter Stone Memoriam". The San Diego Union-Tribune. May 5, 2003. Retrieved September 14, 2012.
  12. "Theater honors put women in the spotlight". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
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