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Peter Stone

In Memoriam Condolences

Award-winning writer of ' 1776 ' ; 73

Peter Stone, whose sophisticated wit in films like " Charade " and zeal for historical accuracy in Broadway musicals like " 1776 " helped him become the first writer to win an Oscar, an Emmy and a Tony, died April 26 in Manhattan. He was 73 and had homes in Manhattan and in Amagansett, on Long Island.

The cause was pulmonary fibrosis, said his wife, Mary.

" I am a political person, although I don ' t mean that in the Washington, D.C., sense, " Mr. Stone said in a 1997 interview. " I ' m interested in the dissemination of information. "

Even in his most urbane comedies, Mr. Stone a former broadcast journalist and the son of a history teacher struggled to pack in the historical details that so fascinated him.

In a 1969 review of the musical " 1776, " Walter Kerr wrote in The New York Times: " The show makes you feel smarter than you used to be, which is a gracious thing for librettist Peter Stone to have arranged, and smarter without having had to slave for it. "

Mr. Stone, whose Oscar came for an original screenplay for the 1964 Cary Grant comedy " Father Goose, " an award he shared with S.H. Barnett and Frank Tarloff was actually more widely known for his adaptations.

In 1969 he adapted for the screen the musical " Sweet Charity, " which had itself been adapted from Federico Fellini ' s " Nights of Cabiria " (1957). He also adapted the George Bernard Shaw play " Androcles and the Lion " for NBC television in 1967, Billy Wilder ' s " Some Like It Hot " (1959) for Broadway as the musical " Sugar " (1972) and John Godey ' s novel " The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three " for the movies in 1974.

Twice he worked on adaptations of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn classics, transforming George Cukor ' s " Adam ' s Rib " (1949) into a 1973 television series starring Ken Howard and Blythe Danner, and George Stevens ' " Woman of the Year " (1942) into a 1981 Broadway musical starring Lauren Bacall.

Mr. Stone ' s father, the history teacher, had moved his family to Los Angeles in the 1920s, where he became a producer and screenwriter at Fox Studios, specializing in cowboy movies starring Tom Mix.

After attending Bard College and the Yale School of Drama, Mr. Stone worked in Paris as a writer and news reader for CBS radio and television.

His first writing jobs outside of journalism were in television. In 1956 he wrote an episode for the " Studio One " series. His Emmy came for a 1962 episode of " The Defenders, " a highly regarded series about a father-and-son team of lawyers that often delved into social issues.

On Broadway he was not initially so successful. He wrote the books for two musicals, " Kean " (1961) and " Skyscraper " (1965), neither of which did well at the box office, although they were critically praised. Not until " 1776 " did he have a major stage hit, but by then he was a celebrated screenwriter.

" Charade " (1963), his first screenplay, was a major success for the director Stanley Donen and its co-stars, Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. It was not until the next year, though, and " Father Goose " that he received his only Oscar nomination. Some felt that the honor was, in part, a delayed tribute for the overlooked " Charade " script.

Mr. Stone, who sometimes wrote under the pseudonym Pierre Marton, tried to duplicate his " Charade " success with other convoluted but less successful thrillers like " Mirage " (1965) and " Arabesque " (1966), both starring Gregory Peck. After his success with " 1776, " he began to spend more of his time on Broadway efforts.

He was nominated six times for a Tony and won three of them best musical for " 1776 " and best book of a musical for " Woman of the Year " and for " Titanic " (1997), a $10 million blockbuster about the sinking of the famous ocean liner.

In recent decades he worked only sporadically in film, with his credits including " Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? " (1978), with George Segal and Jacqueline Bisset, and " Just Cause " (1995), starring Sean Connery. Both are adapted from novels.

In 2002 he took the pseudonym Peter Joshua for his part in the script for " The Truth About Charlie, " a remake of " Charade " that was a box-office flop.

Mr. Stone, who had perhaps his greatest successes writing the books for musicals, always felt that it was an underappreciated art.

Besides his wife, he is survived by a brother, David, of Los Angeles.
Published in The San Diego Union Tribune on May 5, 2003
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