Sumner Locke Elliott

Sumner Locke Elliott
Born (1917-10-17)17 October 1917
Died 24 June 1991(1991-06-24) (aged 73)
  • Novelist
  • playwright
  • radio writer
  • screenwriter

Sumner Locke Elliott (17 October 1917 – 24 June 1991) was an Australian (later American) novelist and playwright.


Elliott was born in Sydney to the writer Sumner Locke and the journalist Henry Logan Elliott. His mother died of eclampsia one day after his birth.[1] Elliott was raised by his aunts, who had a fierce custody battle over him, fictionalised in Elliott's autobiographical novel, Careful, He Might Hear You. Elliott was educated at Cranbrook School in Bellevue Hill, Sydney.

World War II

Elliott became an actor and writer with the Doris Fitton's The Independent Theatre Ltd.. He was drafted into the Australian Army in 1942, but instead of being posted overseas, he worked as a clerk in Australia. He used these experiences as the inspiration for his controversial play, Rusty Bugles. The play toured extensively throughout Australia and achieved the notoriety of being closed down for obscenity by the Chief Secretary's Office.[2]

However, Rusty Bugles' place in the history of Australian theatre rests on more than notoriety. Mac is a memorable character in the play, and in the first production, Frank O'Donnell transformed audiences' understanding of the typical Australian 'bludger' or 'scrounger'. To the men in his unit, he appeared a winner even when he was losing, but with the discovery of his wife's infidelity, his fragility becomes apparent.[3]


Elliott moved to the United States in 1948, where he ranked in the pantheon of leading playwrights during the Golden Age of live television dramas, writing more than 30 original plays and numerous adaptations for such shows as Philco-Goodyear Playhouse, Kraft Television Theatre, Studio One and Playhouse 90. He also wrote a play Buy Me Blue Ribbons, which had a short run on Broadway.[4]

In 1955, he obtained United States citizenship and did not return to Australia until 1974.[3]


Elliott's best known novel, Careful, He Might Hear You, won the 1963 Miles Franklin Award and was turned into a film in 1983.

Private life

As a gay man during a time when this was socially disapproved of, Elliott was uncomfortable with his sexuality. He kept it secret until nearly the end of his life before coming out in his book Fairyland. Because of these fears, Elliott had affairs but never had any stable relationships.[5]


He died of colon cancer aged 73 in New York City in 1991.



Short stories[edit]

  • Radio Days (1993)


TV plays[edit]

  • "Beloved Stranger" (1955), for Goodyear Television Playhouse (1955)
  • "The Thin Air" (1952), "We Were Children" (1952), "Before I Wake" (1953) and "Friday the 13th" (1954) for Philco Television Playhouse
  • "The King and Mrs. Candle," for Producers' Showcase (1955)
  • "Whereabouts Unknown," for The Kaiser-Aluminum Hour (1957)
  • "Babe in the Woods" (1957) and "Love at Fourth Sight" (1957) for Studio One
  • "The Count of Monte Cristo" (1958) and "The Prisoner of Zenda" (1961) for Dupont Show of the Month
  • "Daisy! Daisy!" (1956) and "You and Me... and the Gatepost!" (1956) for Playwrights '56
  • "I Heard You Calling Me" (1961), for Way Out
  • "Mrs. Gilling and the Skyscraper" (1957) for The Alcoa Hour
  • "Wish on the Moon," for Philco-Goodyear Playhouse (1953).

Radio plays[edit]

  • "Wicked is the Vine" – Lux Radio Theatre (1947)


  1. ^ [1] Archived 22 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Alomes, Stephen (11 October 1999). When London Calls: The Expatriation of Australian Creative Artists to Britain. Cambridge University Press. p. 35. ISBN 978-0-521-62978-2.
  3. ^ a b "Sumner Locke Elliott". Retrieved 28 October 2014.
  4. ^ "Buy Me Blue Ribbons". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 28 October 2014.
  5. ^ [2] Archived 25 June 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "Sydney Morning Herald". 27 October 1948. Retrieved 28 October 2014.

External links