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Jay Allen



Jay Presson Allen, Oscar-nominated screenwriter was born Jacqueline Presson in San Angelo, Texas on March 3, 1922. At the age of 18, she decided to become an actress in New York City. The charms of the profession soon paled and she married in the early 1940s, moving to southern California.Disenchanted with acting, she saw writing as a way of becoming financially independent and enabling to leave her unhappy marriage. Her first novel Spring Riotwas published in 1948. She moved back to New York, where she performed in cabaret and on the radio, but she was as disenchanted with performing as she had been before. She eventually divorced her husband and in 1955, she married Lewis Allen, a reader at the office of Broadway producer Bob Whitehead. Allen initially rejected a play she had sent Whitehead that later was optioned but never produced.She eventually wrote another play, The First Wife, that was turned into the 1963 film Wives and Lovers. She optioned Muriel Spark’s novel The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and wrote a dramatization, whichwas produced in London in 1966 and was a success, making the transfer to both Broadway and the silver screen. Maggie Smith won her first Oscar playing Jean Brodie. Allen had another success on Broadway with her play 40 Carats, which she adapted from a French comedy. The great Julie Harris won a Tony Award for her performance as a 42-year-old woman who seduces a man twenty years her junior.The same year that her next play Travels With My Auntwas released and failed, Allen was engage to adapt the Broadway hit Cabaret for director Bob Fosse. Under the direction of the producers, Allen went back to Christopher Isherwood’s source material, the 1939 novel Goodbye to Berlin, the basis of his I Am a Camera, which itself is the genesis of Cabaret. Allen had to give structure to the story for the movie, but she clashed with Fosse, whom she found a depressive who drained the script of humor. She eventually quit but was given the credit for the script, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award.Other projects that Presson worked on were Funny Lady,the 1974 sequel to Funny Girl, and the TV series ‘Family.’ She adapted her 1969 novel Just Tell Me What Your Wantfor movie director Sidney Lumet, which was the first of four projects they collaborated on. She was nominated for an Oscar for her adaptation of Robert Daley’s novel Prince of the City, directed by Lumet. Her third collaboration was an adaptation of Ira Levin’s play Deathtrap. She also worked uncredited on Lumet’s The Verdict rewriting David Mamet’s script.She worked on the adaptations of A Little Family Businessand La Cage Aux Folleson Broadway and the TV series ‘Hothouse.’ She wrote a biographical play about Truman Capote, Tru, which made it to Broadway in 1991.In an interview with the New York Timesin 1972, Allen said that the essence of a successful adaptation is to not ‘muck around with the essence’ of the original work.Jay Presson Allen died on May 1, 2006 in New York City. She was 84 years old.