Playwright Murray Schisgal, who received 1965 Tony nominations for the absurdist comedy Luv—his Broadway debut, passed away October 1 at the age of 93.
Born Murray Joseph Schisgal November 25, 1926, in Brooklyn, New York, he attended Long Island University and later Brooklyn Law School. After practicing law and subsequently teaching high school English, he first achieved success as a writer in 1961 in London with three one-acts, followed by a double bill of The Typists and The Tiger Off-Broadway in 1963 starring Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson.
Wallach and Jackson—joined by Alan Arkin—also starred in Mr. Schisgal’s Luv, which marked his Broadway debut, opening November 11, 1964, at the Booth Theatre under the direction of Mike Nichols. The production was nominated for five Tony Awards, winning for Best Scenic Design, Best Direction of a Play, and Best Producer of a Play. The playwright received nominations for both Best Play and Best Author (Play). A film version, written by Mr. Schisgal and Elliott Baker, premiered in 1967, starring Jack Lemmon, Peter Falk, and Elaine May.
Mr. Schisgal's other works produced on Broadway include Jimmy Shine (1968), The Chinese and Dr. Fish (1970), An American Millionaire (1974), All Over Town (1974), and Twice Around the Park (1982).
Although Mr. Schisgal also adapted The Tiger for the silver screen—1967's The Tiger Makes Out with Wallach, Jackson, and Bob Dishy—his biggest screen success was the blockbuster Tootsie, which he co-wrote with Larry Gelbart and Don McGuire. Dustin Hoffman, who had previously starred in the title role of Mr. Schisgal's Jimmy Shine, was nominated for a 1983 Academy Award for his performance, while Schisgal, Gilbert, and McGuire were nominated for Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen. Mr. Schisgal was not, however, involved with the 2019 Broadway musical based on the film.
Mr. Schisgal's later works include Slouching Toward the Millennium, three one-acts that examine the battle of the sexes; Angel Wings, a farce about a philandering businessman who finds himself in hot water in the afterlife when God is revealed to be a woman; and We Are Family, about Sam Kogan, who believes his inability to keep a relationship with a woman means he is gay and moves back to his old neighborhood to test his theory on his two best friends.
Mr. Schisgal is survived by son Zach Schisgal, daughter Jane Schisgal, sister Diane Troy, and four grandchildren. His wife Reene passed away in 2017.