Shelagh Delaney, Acclaimed British Playwright and Screenwriter
Delaney first achieved success with the play A Taste of Honey, written when she was 19 years old.
Shelagh Delaney, a playwright and screenwriter best known for her 1958 play A Taste of Honey, died November 20, 2011, at the home of her daughter in eastern England. She was 71.
According to news reports, the cause was cancer.
A precocious writer, Delaney was only 19 years old when A Taste of Honey premiered. The play concerned a young woman who becomes pregnant after a one-night stand with a black sailor, and her supportive relationship with a gay artist. Although its subject matter was somewhat controversial at the time, the play had successful runs in London and New York.
She said that she was inspired to write the play by her disdain for the play Variations on a Theme, by Terence Rattigan. Convinced she could do better, she wrote A Taste of Honey in two weeks, drawing upon material from a novel she was writing.
A 1961 film version was directed by Tony Richardson. He and Delaney shared BAFTA and Writers Guild awards for their screenplay.
Delaney’s was determined to write plays more reflective of real life, rather than what she considered idealized characters and situations in most theater works.
In 1960 her second play, The Lion in Love, about a difficult marriage between a frustrated man and an aggressive woman, had its premiere.
For several years afterward she wrote primarily for film and television. She next wrote for the theater in 1979, when she revised her BBC television series The House that Jack Built.
Her screenplays at the time included The White Bus, Charlie Bubbles (for which she won a second Writers Guild Award) and The Raging Moon.
She later wrote the screenplay for the 1985 film Dance with a Stranger, directed by Mike Newell.
In addition to The House That Jack Built, her television credits included the British series Seven Faces of Woman and Thirty-Minute Theatre
Delaney was an inspiration to the singer-wongwriter Morrissey, whose work with the band the Smiths included song lyrics borrowed from her work, such as the Taste of Honey line "The dream is gone but the baby is real," from the song "This Night Has Opened My Eyes." In addition, a photograph of Delaney appears on the cover of the Smiths album Louder Than Bombs.
She is survived by a daughter and three grandchildren.