Who’ll Save the Plowboy?, wr. 1957, pr., pb. 1962
The Subject Was Roses, pb. 1962, pr. 1964
That Summer–That Fall, pr., pb. 1967 (includes his teleplay Far Rockaway)
The Only Game in Town, pr., pb. 1968
Present Tense: Four Plays by Frank D. Gilroy, pb. 1973 (includes So Please Be Kind, ‘Twas Brillig, Come Next Tuesday, and Present Tense)
The Next Contestant, pr. 1978 (one act)
Dreams of Glory, pr. 1979 (one act)
Last Licks, pr. 1979 (also known as The Housekeeper, pr. 1982)
Real to Reel, pr. 1987
Match Point, pr. 1990 (one act)
A Way with Words, pr. 1991 (one act)
Any Given Day, pr. 1993
A Way with Words: Five One Act Plays, pb. 1993 (includes A Way with Words, Match Point, Fore!, Real to Reel, and Give the Bishop My Faint Regards)
Getting In, pr. 1997
The Golf Ball, pr. 1997
Contact with the Enemy, pr. 1999
Frank D. Gilroy, pb. 2000 (volume 1: Complete Full-Length Plays: 1962-1999, volume 2: Fifteen One-Act Plays)
From Noon Till Three: The Possibly True and Certainly Tragic Story of an Outlaw and a Lady Whose Love Knew No Bounds, 1973 (also known as For Want of a Horse, 1975)
About Those Roses: Or, How Not to Do a Play and Succeed, 1965
I Wake Up Screening! Everything You Need to Know About Making Independent Films Including a Thousand Reasons Not To, 1993
The Fastest Gun Alive, 1956
The Gallant Hours, 1960 (with Beirne Lay, Jr.)
The Subject Was Roses, 1968 (adaptation of his play)
The Only Game in Town, 1969 (adaptation of his play)
Desperate Characters, 1971 (adaptation of Paula Fox’s novel)
From Noon Till Three, 1976 (adaptation of his novel)
Once in Paris, 1978
The Gig, 1985
The Luckiest Manin the World, 1989
Money Plays, 1998
The Last Notch, 1954
Run for the Money, 1954
A Likely Story, 1955
Uncle Ed and Circumstances, 1955
Sincerely, Willis Wayde, 1956 (adaptation of John P. Marquand’s play)
Ten Grapefruit to Lisbon, 1956
A Matter of Pride, 1957 (adaptation of John Langdon’s story “The Blue Serge Suit”)
The Last Summer, 1958
Point of No Return, 1958 (adaptation of Marquand’s play)
Who Killed Julie Greer?, 1961
Far Rock-away, 1965
Children’s/Young Adult Literature:
Little Ego, 1970 (with Ruth G. Gilroy)
Playwright Frank Daniel Gilroy perfected his craft during the 1950’s, that period called the Golden Age of television. Gilroy authored television scripts, film scripts, and stage plays, as well as novels and nonfiction. He enjoyed a fruitful, successful career and earned the respect of his colleagues.
Gilroy was the son of Bettina (Vasti) and Frank B. Gilroy, a coffee broker. Born in the Bronx, New York City, he graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School, showing a talent for writing. Unable to get into college because of low grades, he entered the army, serving in the Eighty-ninth Infantry Division, with time in the European Theater. On discharge, he entered Dartmouth College and graduated magna cum laude in 1950. During his college years, he wrote several plays and worked on the college newspaper. After graduation, Gilroy worked at part-time jobs while writing television scripts. He married Ruth Dorothy Gaydo in 1954 and by 1956 was writing scripts for both motion pictures and television.
His first professionally produced play, Who’ll Save the Plowboy?, debuted in 1962. Despite positive critical response and an Obie Award, the drama was not a popular success. Critics saw the play, with its lean, spare structure and dialogue, as a bleak, naturalistic, autobiographical expression of a dysfunctional family beset by life’s ironies. The play centers on a reunion between World War II army buddies Albert and Larry. Fifteen years before, Larry had saved Albert’s life and was wounded in the process. Through correspondence, Albert had told Larry about his happy life and marriage and said that he named his son after Larry. However, Larry discovers that the reality of Albert’s situation is a bitter, hate-filled marriage, a handicapped child, and a mean and petty lifestyle. Larry, slowly dying of the fifteen-year-old wound, proves his nobility by never revealing his knowledge of Albert’s lies.
The husband-wife relationship in the play mirrored Gilroy’s own parents’ marriage, and the World War II component reflected his own army service. Encouraged by critical responses to his effort, Gilroy began to seek production of a second play, The Subject Was Roses. In his journal account in About Those Roses, he shows his determination to see his script produced on Broadway.
The three-character play about the relationships between a mother and father, a father and son, and a son and his mother was not considered Broadway material; however, Gilroy was set on seeing the play produced as he envisioned it. Bucking convention, he financed the production himself, with the pledges of friends.
The Subject Was Roses, another dysfunctional family play with a World War II component, opened too late in the 1964 season to receive any awards except the Outer Circle’s Best New Playwright Award; however, in 1965, the play received the Antoinette Perry (Tony) Award for Best Play, the New York Theatre Club Award, and the Pulitzer Prize. Critics were impressed by the quality of Gilroy’s art, while other writers were inspired by his fight to win respect for himself and his work. As a result, he was elected president of the council of the Dramatists Guild in 1969.
His next full-length plays disappointed the author, the critics, and the public. That Summer–That Fall was a retelling of the Phaedra legend, and while it began strongly, it lost both power and momentum at the climax. The Only Game in Town explored the relationship of a Las Vegas chorus girl and a gambler. The contrived ending (the gambler hit a jackpot and married the chorine) was too obvious to be a satisfying conclusion. Last Licks painted a jaundiced view of a father-son relationship.
Gilroy wrote two novels: Private, based on his army experiences, and From Noon Till Three, which told the two sides of a relationship. Neither sold well. Beginning in 1970, a large portion of his stage work explored the one-act format.
By the late 1960’s, Gilroy was writing, producing, and directing independent films. One film, Desperate Characters, won the Berlin Film Festival Silver Bear Award; however, critics called most of his films either turgid or lightweight. In 1993-1994, Gilroy attempted to revive his successful Burke’s Law television series of the 1960’s. It was canceled at the end of the summer of 1995.
Gilroy’s preoccupation with autobiographical material became more obvious in his later plays. In 1997, Getting In, a one-act play, arose from Gilroy’s own struggle to be accepted in a college after the war. That same year, The Golf Ball examined retirement and the extremes to which retirees will go in order to fill their time. Gilroy’s greatest theatrical achievement of the 1990’s was Contact with the Enemy, produced in 1999. During World War II, Gilroy was part of the liberation force at Ohrduf-Nord concentration camp. In the play, two members of that force meet while visiting the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. When the guide asks them to commit their memories to tape, other memories also emerge, such as the mistreatment of a German soldier who was a prisoner of war. The critical response to this play was more positive than any others since The Subject Was Roses.