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Stars that died 2010

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Shelagh Delaney, English playwright (A Taste of Honey) and screenwriter (Dance with a Stranger), died from breast cancer and heart failure she was 72.

Shelagh Delaney FRSL was an English dramatist and screenwriter, best known for her debut work, A Taste of Honey (1958) died from breast cancer and heart failure she was 72..

(25 November 1938[1] – 20 November 2011)[2]

Early life and A Taste of Honey

Born in Broughton, Salford, Lancashire, the daughter of a bus inspector,[3] Of Irish ancestry, she failed the eleven plus exam four times,[4] but transferred to a grammar school at the age of fifteen from a secondary modern school, gaining five O-levels.[5]
Thinking she could do better than Terence Rattigan's Variations on a Theme, a play she had seen at Manchester's Opera House[6] during its pre–West End tour,[7] Delaney wrote her first play,[8] in ten days, partly because she felt the work showed "insensitivity in the way Rattigan portrayed homosexuals".[9] Her play was accepted by Joan Littlewood's Theatre Workshop. "Quite apart from its meaty content, we believe we have found a real dramatist", Gerry Raffles of Theatre Workshop said at the time.[10]
A Taste of Honey, first performed on 27 May 1958,[10] is set in her native Salford.[11]"I had strong ideas about what I wanted to see in the theatre. We used to object to plays where the factory workers came cap in hand and call the boss 'sir'. Usually North Country people are shown as gormless, whereas in actual fact, they are very alive and cynical."[12]
Reuniting the original cast,[13] the play subsequently enjoyed a run of 368 performances in the West End from January 1959;[14] it was also seen on Broadway, with Joan Plowright as Jo and Angela Lansbury as her mother.[15] It is "probably the most performed play by a post-war British woman playwright".[16]
Breaking new ground in touching on issues like homosexuality "this earthily realistic, moving story of a reluctant teenage mother-to-be ... raises issues which were later to become prime concerns of feminist writers."[17]

Other work

Delaney's second play The Lion in Love followed in 1960. This work "portrays an impoverished family, whose income comes from peddling trinkets", but "the best qualities of the first play are absent."[18]
Novelist Jeanette Winterson though, has commented that the contemporary reviews of these first two plays' first performances "read like a depressing essay in sexism".[19] Sweetly Sings the Donkey, a collection of short stories, appeared in 1963.
The screenplay of the 1961 film version of A Taste of Honey, which she co-wrote with director Tony Richardson, "contrives to keep in Delaney's best lines while creating a cinematic, rather than a theatrical experience".[20] It won the BAFTA Award for Best British Screenplay and the Writers' Guild of Great Britain Award in 1962. Delaney's other screenplays include The White Bus, Charlie Bubbles (both 1967) and Dance with a Stranger (1985). She also wrote several radio plays, Tell Me a Film (2003), Country Life (2004)[15] and its sequel Whoopi Goldberg's Country Life, which was broadcast in The Afternoon Play slot on BBC Radio 4 in June 2010.[21]
In 1985, Delaney was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.


Delaney died from breast cancer and heart failure, five days before her 73rd birthday, at the home of her daughter Charlotte in Suffolk, England.[1] She is survived by her daughter and three grandchildren.[15]

Influence on Morrissey

Delaney is cited as having been a great influence on The Smiths' lead singer and lyricist Morrissey. In 1986, Morrissey said, "I've never made any secret of the fact that at least 50 per cent of my reason for writing can be blamed on Shelagh Delaney." Many of Morrissey's lyrics were lifted directly from Delaney's plays, notably A Taste of Honey. The lyrics of The Smiths's "This Night Has Opened My Eyes" are a retelling of the plot of A Taste of Honey, using many direct quotes from the play. Morrissey chose a photo of Delaney as the artwork on the album cover for his band's 1987 compilation album, Louder Than Bombs.[22]

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