10th February 1987

Jersey screenwriter William Rose dies

William Rose wrote some of the most famous films in British cinema history. He put words into the mouths of Dinah Sheridan and Kenneth More in the 1953 movie, Genevieve, and worked out the dastardly details of 1955 Ealing comedy, The Ladykillers. In 1967 he won the Academy Award for best original screenplay for the film Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, a comedy drama starring Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier and Katharine Hepburn. That film earned 10 nominations in total and was one of the first mainstream movies to depict an interracial kiss.

Multiple nominations

Rose would have been no stranger to Academy Awards ceremonies. As well as the award he picked up for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, he was nominated for Genevieve, The Ladykillers and The Russians are Coming, the Russians are Coming. He was nominated for a Golden Globe for the latter, and for four BAFTAs for The Maggie, Touch and Go, The Smallest Show on Earth, and The Man in the Sky.

Rose’s best-known works were all comedies but, according to the Internet Movie Database, “he was a very highly-strung person and extremely volatile, with a history of nervous breakdowns”.

Beyond cinema

He had been born in Jefferson City, Missouri, in August 1918, he settled in Britain after the Second World War, having spent time stationed in Scotland. He met and married fellow screenwriter Tania Rose following the move, and they later worked on several projects together. According to his obituary in the Los Angeles Times, the script for It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, which he wrote with his wife, made him a millionaire.

William and Tania rose were living in Jersey by the time he wrote the ground-breaking Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and it would be on the island that he would eventually die, in 1987, of a heart attack.


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