Bill MacIlwraith obituary

Playwright and television screenwriter best known for The Anniversary, which was turned into a 1968 film starring Bette Davis

The playwright and television screenwriter Bill MacIlwraith, who has died aged 88, was best known for a mother-in-law-from-hell play, The Anniversary (1966), which was adopted by Bette Davis for a 1968 film which featured three of the original British cast – Sheila Hancock, Jack Hedley and James Cossins – although Davis had wanted a more Americanised version.

When Hancock played “Mum” herself – the role taken by Davis in the film – in an unsuitably girlish dress and a black eye-patch in a revival 10 years ago directed by Denis Lawson, the full south London bite and fury of a widowed mother running a dodgy building company, and stifling the aspirations of her three grown-up sons and their womenfolk, was restored; Hancock’s performance was acclaimed by Sheridan Morley as “the finest, funniest and most frightening comic turn in London”.

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