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Donald Bevan

Writer
( b. Jan 16, 1920 Holyoke, Massachusetts, USA - d. May 29, 2013 Studio City, California, USA ) Male
Relations: Husband of Patricia Kirkland (? - ?)
Donald Bevan flew missions as a waist gunner until he was shot down over Bremen, Germany, on April 17, 1943. He spent two years in prisoner-of-war camps, ending up at Stalag 17B, near Krems, Austria. There, he and his fellow prisoner Edmund Trzcinski jerry-built a theater, wrote and staged revue sketches and, with scripts supplied by the Red Cross, put on plays for the detainees.

Mr. Bevan's prison camp experience produced professional theater as well: he and Mr. Trzcinski collaborated on Stalag 17, a play they called a comic melodrama about American prisoners of war who are victimized by, and finally triumph over, a Nazi spy who has infiltrated their barracks.

The play -- directed by José Ferrer, who won a Tony Award for his effort -- opened in May 1951 and ran for well over a year. It was adapted by the director Billy Wilder for a 1953 film that won a best-actor Oscar for William Holden.

After the war, Mr. Bevan was an illustrator and poster artist for a film company. According to his son Mark, he met his wife, the actress Patricia Kirkland, when his friends set him up on a phony blind date. Mr. Bevan showed up at her apartment, only to learn that there was no date.

In the early 1950s, Ms. Kirkland's father, the playwright Jack Kirkland, the author of Tobacco Road, introduced Mr. Bevan to Vincent Sardi Jr., who was looking for a new caricaturist for his popular Midtown restaurant. Mr. Bevan began with drawings of Denholm Elliot and Maureen Stapleton, who didn't like hers and, according to Mr. Sardi's memoir (written with Thomas Edward West), "Off the Wall at Sardi's," stole it.

The third of only four caricaturists that Sardi's has employed since 1927, Mr. Bevan made hundreds of caricatures for the restaurant for more than 20 years, clean drawings displaying a keen eye for the prominent feature: Karl Malden's nose; Lucille Ball's red hair and blue eyes; the high cheekbones, elongated neck, angular chin and feline eyes of Lauren Bacall; the rotund face and sleepy-lidded eyes of a possibly inebriated Jackie Gleason (he's raising a martini glass); Zero Mostel with dark circles around his eyes and a threadbare combover; Carol Burnett with a toothy smile. He drew Laurence Olivier in profile, giving him a long nose, a jutting chin and distinguished graying hair at the temples.

Mr. Sardi said that he often chose Mr. Bevan's caricature subjects, and that Mr. Bevan was generally amenable unless the subject was a critic. Mr. Bevan was, after all, a playwright as well as an artist.

Source: The New York Times obituary



Productions Date of Productions
Stalag 17
[Play, Comedy, Melodrama, Original]
  • Written by Donald Bevan
May 08, 1951 - Jun 21, 1952
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