Obituary: Stanley Price – ‘bright and witty novelist, playwright and screenwriter’
Although Stanley Price’s original ambition had been to become an actor, it was as a
novelist, playwright and screenwriter that he found fame, having resisted his father’s
ambition for him to train as a doctor.
Born in Stamford Hill, London and raised in Dublin’s small and concentrated Jewish
community, where his parents moved to be close to Price’s Lithuanian grandparents, he eventually escaped paternal pressure by departing for New York in 1957 (after graduating from Cambridge University, where he had written sketches for Footlights revues) to work as a journalist for Life magazine.
Returning to London in 1960, his first novel was published the same year, with another four following in quick succession by the middle of the decade. His first foray into theatre was Come Live With Me, co-written with Lee Minoff in 1966, which gave him his only Broadway credit (albeit running for only four performances) and was seen at the Theatre Royal, Windsor, starring Dickie Henderson, in 1968.
His first solo play, Horizontal Hold (Comedy Theatre, 1967) was a signature comedy about marital strife provoked by the sociologist wife’s new-found television celebrity after publishing research on the sexual habits of the middle class. Admired by The Stage for its “bright, brittle, witty lines”, it also gave Price his first television credit in 1968.
Although television increasingly dominated his career from the 1970s onward, he produced a string of comedies for the stage, including The Starving Rich, in which Freddie Jones was a fleeing convict finding shelter in a health clinic (Theatre Royal Windsor, 1972) and The Two of Me, about a playwright struggling to meet a deadline as his marriage falls apart (Jeanetta Cochrane Theatre, 1975).
More successful were a brace of comedies exploring middle-class angst. First seen at the Queen’s Theatre in 1981, Moving dealt with the domestic hell of moving house and later became a six-part television series 1984 reuniting original cast members Penelope Keith and Peter Jeffrey.
The following year’s Why Me? tasked Richard Briers’ newly idle civil engineer with adapting to post-redundancy life at the Strand Theatre.
Price made his screenwriting debut contributing to the 1966 film Arabesque, starring Hollywood icons Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren. His other film credits included an adaptation of Wilbur Smith’s Gold Mine, entitled simply Gold (1974) and the First World War drama Shout at the Devil (1976).
Other notable television included acting as consultant on the BBC’s Star Quality (1985) – a six-part serial of Noel Coward’s short stories to which Price contributed three scripts – the 1920s-set theatrical dynasty drama The Bretts (1987-89), the Antony Sher-starring Genghis Cohn (1993) and the 1997 Regency-era drama about an earlier Prince of Wales’ marital problems, A Royal Scandal.
Stanley Price was born on August 12, 1931 and died on February 28, aged 87.
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