Saturday, March 24, 2018
William Hanley in 1964. —N.Y. Times
William G. Hanley:
Like so many other writers, William G. Hanley started out struggling, holding a variety of jobs to survive while spending his after-hours at a typewriter. But his talent and drive paid off, and he wound up winning two Emmy Awards and being nominated for a Tony, turning out dozens of stage and television scripts, and producing several novels.
A native of Lorain, Ohio, William Gerald Hanley was born in 1931. His uncles included British novelists James Hanley and Gerald Hanley, and a sister, Ellen Hanley, who was an actress and also a Ridgefielder.
He grew up in Queens, N.Y., attended Cornell for a year, served in the Army, and studied the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, where he began writing scripts. To survive he worked in banks and factories and even as an encyclopedia salesman.
His big break came in 1962 when two one-act plays, performed Off Broadway, won him high praise from critics and earned a Drama Desk Award. “Whisper Into My Good Ear” is about two lonely old men who plan to commit suicide together, and “Mrs. Dally Has a Lover” featured a married woman and her romance with a teenager.
Howard Taubman in The New York Times called Mr. Hanley “an uncommonly gifted writer…His style is lean and laconic, shading almost shyly and unexpectedly into tenderness and poetry. His perception of character is fresh and individual.”
In 1964, his “Slow Dance on the Killing Ground” opened on Broadway to enthusiastic reviews, but lasted only 88 performances.
Soon Mr. Hanley began writing television scripts. In 1966, he turned his stage play, “Flesh and Blood,” about the troubles of a disintegrating family, into a TV film for which NBC paid him $112,500 ($830,000 in 2016 dollars); The Times said that, at that time, it was the highest price ever paid to a single author for a TV script.
Over the next 30 years, he wrote at least two dozen TV scripts. Two earned him Emmys: “Something About Amelia,” a 1984 ABC movie about incest, starring Ted Danson, and the 1988 mini-series, “The Attic: The Hiding of Anne Frank,” starring Paul Scofield and Mary Steenburgen
He received an Edgar Award for his teleplay for the 1987 miniseries, “Nutcracker: Money, Madness & Murder.”
His novels included Blue Dreams, Mixed Feelings, and Leaving Mount Venus, all published in the 1970s.
His actress sister Ellen Hanley was known for her role as Fiorello H. La Guardia’s first wife in the 1959 Broadway musical “Fiorello!” Also in that production was actress Pat Stanley, who became Mr. Hanley’s wife in 1962; they were later divorced.
Mr. Hanley, who had lived in Ridgefield during his later years, died in 2012 at the age of 80 and is buried in Mapleshade Cemetery beside his sister and his parents
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