William Hanley
Born(1931-10-22)October 22, 1931
Lorain, Ohio, United States
DiedMay 25, 2012(2012-05-25) (aged 80)
Spouse(s)Shelley Post (1956–1961)
Pat Stanley (1962–1978; divorced); 2 children
RelativesJames Hanley, Gerald Hanley (uncles)
Ellen Hanley (sister)

William Hanley (October 22, 1931 – May 25, 2012) was an American playwright, novelist, and scriptwriter, born in Lorain, Ohio. Hanley wrote plays for the theatre, radio and television and published three novels in the 1970s. He was related to the British writers James and Gerald Hanley, and the actress Ellen Hanley was his sister.


William G. Hanley was born on October 22, 1931, Lorain, Ohio, one of three children of William Gerald and Anne Rodgers Hanley.[1] William Hanley, Sr. was born in Liverpool, England in 1899,[2] of Irish Catholic immigrants. He was a seaman before settling in the US, and then worked as a housepainter.[3] Shortly after Hanley's birth the family moved to Queens, New York. Hanley attended Cornell for a year, then served in the Army in the early 1950s, before enrolling at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, though he never pursued an acting career.[4] He worked as a bank clerk, mail clerk, factory worker, and book salesman while writing his early scripts.[5] William Hanley married Shelley Post, 1956 (divorced, 1961), and married Pat Stanley, 1962 (divorced, 1978).

The actress Ellen Hanley (1926–2007) was his sister. She is best known for playing Fiorello La Guardia's first wife in the 1959 Broadway musical "Fiorello!" The British novelist and playwright James Hanley (1897–1985) was his father William's brother. In addition to writing many novels James Hanley also wrote plays for the theatre, radio and television. Another brother was the novelist and script writer Gerald Hanley (1916–1992).[6]

William Hanley died May 25, 2012, after suffering a fall in his home in Ridgefield, Connecticut and was buried jn the family plot at Mapleshade Cemetery, next to his parents and sister.[7] He was 80.[5]


Hanley was a successful Broadway and off Broadway playwright in the 1960s. Howard Taubman wrote in The New York Times in 1962, that Hanley was "an uncommonly gifted writer." But the accolades, and a Tony nomination, did not provide commercial success. Slow Dance on the Killing Ground ran for 88 performances, the Off-Broadway plays had closed within a month.[5] However Hanley, subsequently he had a successful career in television, beginning with Flesh and Blood which was originally a stage play that Hanley sold in 1966, to NBC for $112,500, "at the time the most that television had paid an author for a single work".[5] Over a period of thirty years Hanley wrote more than two dozen TV scripts. He also published three novels in the 1970s. He was the original screenwriter on The Graduate (1967), but walked off the project after getting notes he didn't agree with from director Mike Nichols.[8]


He was nominated for Emmys five times and won twice: a 1984 ABC movie Something About Amelia and in 1988 for the mini-series The Attic: The Hiding of Anne Frank, which starred Paul Scofield, Mary Steenburgen and, as Anne, Lisa Jacobs.[9] Something About Amelia also won a 1984 Golden Globe Award for Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture made for Television.[10]


Stage plays

Published plays (including anthologies)


Plays for television

Radio play



  1. ^ Heves, Dennis (June 3, 2012). "William Hanley, Playwright and TV Writer, Dies at 80". The New York Times. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  2. ^ "James Hanley's Life" in James Hanley's The Closed Harbour. London: Oneworld Classics, 2009, p. 202
  3. ^ James Hanley, Broken Water: An Autobiographical Excursion. London: Chatto & Windus, 1937, p.130, 134, 140, 246; Lorain Public Library System, local authors, Lorain.lib.oh.us[dead link]
  4. ^ Playbill.com
  5. ^ a b c d Hevesi, Dennis (June 3, 2012). "William Hanley, Playwright and TV Writer, Dies at 80". The New York Times.
  6. ^ The National Library of Wales has a few letters from William and Ellen Hanley to James Hanley. William Hanley, playwright. Letter from (1976), NLW 23132, f. 205. Ellen Hanley, actress. Letters from (1960–79), NLW 23132, ff. 194–204v
  7. ^ Ridgefield Press, 28 May 2012
  8. ^ Harris, Mark (2008). Pictures at a Revolution. The Penguin Press. p. 50. ISBN 978-1-59420-152-3.
  9. ^ Dennis Heves, "William Hanley, Playwright and TV Writer, Dies at 80. The New York Times, June 3, 2012.
  10. ^ Golden Globe Awards
  11. ^ Cix.co.uk
  12. ^ Something About Amelia An ABC Theatre Presentation, emmys.com. Retrieved September 27, 2017
  13. ^ Ellen Foster#Television film
  14. ^ IMDb