William Berney (playwright)

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William S. Berney (born May 6, 1920 in Birmingham; died November 23, 1961 in Los Angeles, California) was a Broadway playwright.

Berney was the son of William and Louise (Claibourne) Berney. The family moved to Albertville, Marshall County during his childhood and he attended school there and at the University of Alabama, graduating in 1941. While at the university he participated with the Blackfriars theater group. He went on to study dramatics at the University of Iowa, where he befriended Howard Richardson, who became his writing partner.

After graduating, Berney went to work for an advertising agency in New York. He offered LIFE magazine the exclusive first photographs of Boeing's B-29 bomber in exchange for publicity for one of his and Richardson's first play, Dark of the Moon, which debuted at the Brattle Playhouse in Cambridge, Massachusetts in July 1944. After a favorable review in LIFE that September, the play, a romantic fable set in the Smoky Mountains, opened in Broadway's 46th Street Theatre in March 1945 and had a nine-month run.

Berney then co-produced a revival of the 1920 Jerome Kern musical Sally in 1948. He and Richardson followed up with Design for a Stained Glass Window about a 16th century English martyr, and Protective Custody, about a female journalist captured and brainwashed by the Soviet Union, both of which had Broadway runs. They also wrote plays that were performed on the London stage; Mountain Fire and Giselle.

In 1960 Berney moved to Los Angeles to write for television. He died there in November 1961. His final play, Birds of Prey, was staged in 1962.


  • Anderson, Glenn A. "William Berney" (January 28, 2016) Encyclopedia of Alabama Online - accessed May 6, 2016