West Side Story playwright Arthur Laurents dies

Arthur Laurents with Lauren Bacall in 2003 Laurents, pictured with Lauren Bacall in 2003, was known for speaking his mind

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Arthur Laurents, writer of such classic stage musicals as West Side Story and Gypsy, has died in New York aged 93.

The director and screenwriter died at his Manhattan home from complications of pneumonia, his agent said.

Born in Brooklyn, the attorney's son began in radio and wrote military training films during World War II.

His screen credits include the Alfred Hitchcock film Rope, Barbra Streisand romance The Way We Were and 1977 ballet drama The Turning Point.

Laurents won a Tony award in 1968 as author of the book for the musical Hallelujah, Baby!, and another, in 1984, for directing La Cage aux Folles.

He remains best known for writing the books for West Side Story and Gypsy, hit Broadway shows that were later turned into movies.

Arthur Laurents with Richard Rodgers (l) and Stephen Sondheim (r) in 1964 Laurents (centre) worked with lyricist Sondheim (r) on West Side Story

Featuring music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, the former retold the Romeo and Juliet story as a drama about rival New York street gangs.

The latter, based on the memoirs of stripper Gypsy Rose Lee, premiered in 1959 and was successfully revived four times on Broadway.

Laurents directed three of the revivals himself, most recently in 2008 with Patty LuPone in the leading role.

His other credits as a stage director include I Can Get It For You Wholesale, best remembered as the musical which introduced a 19-year-old Barbra Streisand to Broadway in 1962.

Earlier this year the Oscar-winning actress confirmed she plans to star in and possibly direct a new film version of Gypsy.

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