Wilford Leach

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Wilford Leach
Born Carson Wilford Leach
(1929-08-26)August 26, 1929
Petersburg, Virginia, USA
Died June 18, 1988(1988-06-18) (aged 58)
Rocky Point, New York, US
Occupation Theatre director, film director, screenwriter, academic
Awards Drama Desk Awards
Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical
1981 The Pirates of Penzance
1986 The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Carson Wilford Leach (August 26, 1929 – June 18, 1988) was an American theatre director, set designer, film director, screenwriter, and college professor.


Born in Petersburg, Virginia,[1] Leach was the artistic director of New York City's La MaMa experimental theatre company in the 1970s. He also often directed works and designed sets for Joseph Papp's Public Theater and New York Shakespeare Festival, where he first directed The Pirates of Penzance with Kevin Kline, Linda Ronstadt, Rex Smith, and Patricia Routledge in 1980.[1][2] That same year he helmed a television production with the same cast, and in 1981 he staged the Broadway production, replacing the unavailable Routledge with Estelle Parsons, and winning his first Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical. His association with Pirates continued with a 1983 feature film (with Angela Lansbury replacing Parsons), which he wrote and directed.[1][3]

Leach's additional theatre directing credits include two projects that originated at the Public and then transferred to Broadway, The Human Comedy (1984) and The Mystery of Edwin Drood, for which he won his second Tony.[4]

While a film and theater professor at Sarah Lawrence, where he taught since 1958,[2] Leach met students Brian De Palma and Cynthia Munroe. In collaboration with the two, he produced, directed, and wrote the screenplay for the 1969 film The Wedding Party, whose cast included newcomers Robert De Niro and Jill Clayburgh. He also directed All's Well That Ends Well (1978) with Frances Conroy for television[5] and a straight-to-video version of Coriolanus (1979), with Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman.

The protagonist of Brian De Palma's film Phantom of the Paradise (1974), Winslow Leach, is named after Wilford Leach.

Leach died from stomach cancer in Rocky Point, New York.[2]


  1. ^ a b c Credits filmreference.com, accessed May 19, 2009
  2. ^ a b c Barron, James."Wilford Leach, Theater Director And Papp Associate, Dies at 59",The New York Times, June 21, 1988
  3. ^ Biography, Universal Studios, January 5, 1983 ronstadt-linda.com, accessed May 19, 2009
  4. ^ Tony Awards broadwayworld.com, accessed May 19, 2009
  5. ^ Staff.Biography allmovie.com, accessed May 19, 2009

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