Authors: Frank D. Gilroy

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American playwright and screenwriter

Author Works


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)

Long Fiction:

Private, 1970

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.{$I[AN]9810001872}{$I[A]Gilroy, Frank D.}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Gilroy, Frank D.}{$I[tim]1925;Gilroy, Frank D.}

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.

BibliographyGuernsey, Otis. Burns Mantle Theatre Yearbook: The Best Plays of 1993-1994. New York: Limelight Editions, 1994. The volume contains information and facts about Any Given Day, which is a “prequel” to The Subject Was Roses. John, Nettie, and Timmy Cleary are presented as younger selves.Hischak, Thomas S. American Theatre: A Chronicle of Comedy and Drama, 1969-2000. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. This survey of the commercial theater in New York gives an insight into Gilroy’s place and contribution to the contemporary theater.Kerr, Walter. “Play: Gilroy Drama of Age, Last Licks.” Review of Last Licks, by Frank D. Gilroy. The New York Times, November 21, 1979, p. C11. This review of Last Licks provides an interesting examination of the genre problem caused by the incongruities of the first and second acts. Kerr questions whether the play is a comedy or “a deeply serious psychological snarl.” In the second act, Kerr says, Gilroy “put an abrupt end to the pleasures that popped out of him while he was feeling his way.”Simon, John. Uneasy Stages. New York: Random House, 1975. A homage to Gilroy, whose The Subject Was Roses disappointed Simon. The ending, Simon remarks, “depended on a sudden and ephemeral paternal embrace, insufficiently motivated and unable to carry its load of hope–it was unearned.” Simon describes Gilroy as “a product of television’s Golden Age” and believes that Gilroy’s plays belong on television, minus the sexual boldness.Taubman, Howard. “Play by Frank Gilroy at the Royale Theater.” Review of The Subject Was Roses, by Frank D. Gilroy. The New York Times, May 26, 1964, p. 45. Judges The Subject Was Roses to be “an impressive stride forward” from Who’ll Save the Plowboy?, which Taubman says showed promise. Gilroy “knows the difference between sentiment and sentimentality and he is not betrayed into the latter.” Martin Sheen, an unknown at the time, played the returning soldier in this production.Weales, Gerald. The Jumping-Off Place: American Drama in the 1960’s. New York: Macmillan, 1969. Weales treats Gilroy in a chapter entitled “Front Runners, Some Fading” and criticizes his work as suggesting television material rather than work for the stage: “It was neither the many scenes nor the suspicious length [of That Summer–That Fall,] that suggested television; it was the tone of the play.” Good comments on the artificially happy endings, especially in The Only Game in Town.
Categories: Authors