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Frederick Major Paull Knott (28 August 1916 — 17 December 2002) was an English playwright known for his ingeniously complex, crime-related plots. Though he was a reluctant writer and completed only three plays in his career, two have become classics: the London-based stage thriller Dial M for Murder, which was later filmed in Hollywood by Alfred Hitchcock, and the chilling 1966 play Wait Until Dark, which also became a Hollywood film.
Life and career
Knott was born in Hankow, China, the son of English missionaries, Margaret Caroline (Paull) and Cyril Wakefield Knott. He was educated at Oundle School from 1929 to 1934 and later gained a law degree from Cambridge University. He served in the British Army from 1939 to 1946, rising to the rank of Major, and eventually moved to the United States.
Although his most successful play, Dial M for Murder, was a hit on the stage, it was originally a BBC television production. As a theatre piece, it premiered at the Westminster Theatre in Victoria, London, in June 1952, directed by John Fernald and starring Alan MacNaughtan and Jane Baxter. This production was followed in October by a successful run in New York City at the Plymouth Theater, where Reginald Denham directed Richard Derr and Gusti Huber. Knott also wrote the screenplay for the 1954 Hollywood movie which Hitchcock filmed for Warner Brothers in 3D, starring Ray Milland and Grace Kelly, with Anthony Dawson and John Williams reprising their characters from the New York stage production, which had brought Williams a Tony Award for his role as Inspector Hubbard.
In 1960, Knott wrote the stage thriller Write Me a Murder, which was produced at the Belasco Theatre in New York in October 1961. It was directed by George Schaefer and included Denholm Elliott and Kim Hunter in the cast.
In 1966, Knott's stage play Wait Until Dark was produced on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. The Director was Arthur Penn and the play starred Lee Remick who won a Tony Award nomination for her performance. Later the same year, Honor Blackman played the lead in London's West End at the Strand Theatre. The film version, also titled Wait Until Dark that was released in 1967, had Audrey Hepburn in the lead role.
Knott died in New York City in 2002.
- Dial M for Murder (Samuel French, London ISBN 0-573-01102-8)
- Dial M for Murder (Random House Plays, New York 1952)
- Write Me a Murder (Dramatists Play Service Inc, New York 1962)
- Wait Until Dark (Samuel French, London ISBN 0-573-01050-1)