100 Heroes: Mart Crowley
The gay man who created an iconic moment of queer theatre.
Edward Martino Crowley (August 21, 1935 – March 7, 2020) was an American playwright who was best known for his play The Boys in the Band.
Crowley was born in 1935 in Mississippi.
He went to university in Washington D.C., studying acting. He graduated in 1957 and then moved to Los Angeles.
Focused on a career in Hollywood, Crowley worked for a number of television production companies.
It was on the set of the film Splendor in the Grass where Crowley met Natalie Wood – she hired him as her assistant.
It was while working for Natalie Wood that Crowley wrote The Boys in the Band.
The Boys in the Band
Crowley’s play opened off-Broadway in 1968 and had a 1,000-performance run.
In 1970, the play was adapted as a film – directed by William Friedkin.
Set in New York City in 1968 – when being gay was still considered to be best kept behind closed doors – a group of friends gather for a birthday party hosted by Michael, a screenwriter who spends and drinks too much, in honour of the sharp-dressed and sharp-tongued Harold.
Other partygoers include Donald, Michael’s former flame, now mired in self-analysis; Larry, a randy commercial artist living with Hank, a school teacher who has just left his wife; Bernard, a librarian tiptoeing around fraught codes of friendship alongside Emory, a decorator who never holds back; and a guileless hustler, hired to be Harold’s gift for the night.
What begins as an evening of drinks and laughs gets upended when Alan, Michael’s straight-laced college roommate, shows up unexpectedly and each man is challenged to confront long-buried truths that threaten the foundation of the group’s tight bond.
A Broadway revival of The Boys in the Band was staged in 2018. The cast included Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, and Andrew Rannells.
The Broadway cast reunited for a screen adaptation of the play.
Crowley didn’t conceal his sexuality, he lived as a gay man.
Crowley died in New York City in March 2020.