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The Subject Was Roses

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Title: The Subject Was Roses  
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Subject: 19th Tony Awards, Chester Morris, J.B. (play), The Great White Hope, Pulitzer Prize for Drama
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The Subject Was Roses

The Subject Was Roses
Written by Frank D. Gilroy
Characters John Cleary
Nettie Cleary
Timmy Cleary
Date premiered May 25, 1964
Place premiered Royale Theatre
New York City, New York
Original language English
Genre Drama, Comedy
Setting the Clearys' apartment, 1946

The Subject Was Roses is a Pulitzer Prize-winning 1964 play written by Frank D. Gilroy, who also adapted the work in 1968 for a film with the same title.


  • Background 1
  • Cast and characters 2
  • Synopsis 3
  • Film adaptation 4
  • Awards and nominations 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


The play premiered on Broadway at the Royale Theatre on May 25, 1964, starring Jack Albertson, Irene Dailey, replaced by Martha Scott for the national tour; and Martin Sheen, and directed by Ulu Grosbard. A major critical and commercial success, the play ran 832 performances and was nominated for five Tony Awards, winning two for Best Play and Best Featured Actor (Albertson). For his work in the play, Gilroy won the year's Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Columbia Records recorded the complete play in a recording studio with the original cast members and released it as a double-LP set.

In the published script, Gilroy included a day-by-day journal he titled, About Those Roses or How 'Not' To Do a Play and Succeed. According to the journal, "The Subject Was Roses opened on Broadway with a producer who had never produced a Broadway play; a director who had never directed one; a scenic artist who had never designed one; a general manager who had never managed one; and three actors who were virtually unknown." Additionally, the play opened after all of the award deadlines, so it was not eligible until the following year, triumphing over Neil Simon's The Odd Couple, Murray Schisgal's Luv and Edward Albee's Tiny Alice for the Tony Award, the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. During the play's two-year run, The Subject Was Roses played five different Broadway theaters and Dustin Hoffman became a replacement stage manager and understudied the role of Timmy.

In 1991, the Roundabout Theatre Company revived the play in New York City with John Mahoney, Dana Ivey and Patrick Dempsey. A 2006 revival of the play was produced by Jeffrey Finn at the Kennedy Center starring Bill Pullman, Judith Ivey, and Steve Kazee. All three performers were nominated for 2007 Helen Hayes Awards. In a 2009 revival in Los Angeles, Martin Sheen again appeared, this time in the role of the father.[1]

Cast and characters

Columbia Records recording of the complete play, The Subject Was Roses


Timmy Cleary returns home from his service during World War II. While he seems to vindicate himself in his father's eyes for surviving the war, his drinking and cursing disturb his mother. Though his parents, John and Nettie, seem to be happy, the peace proves to be a facade. Soon old emotional wounds and unresolved marital problems resurface. Caught in the middle, Timmy feels responsible for their squabbling, but can see no way to resolve their problems.

Film adaptation

Awards and nominations



  1. ^ Jaffe, Ina (February 21, 2010). "'"Father And Son: Sheen Revisits 'Subject Was Roses. Retrieved 22 February 2010. 

External links

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