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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 Helena Sumner Locke (1881–1917) and the journalist Henry Logan Elliott. His mother died of eclampsia one day after his birth. 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.
Elliott became an actor and writer with the Doris Fitton's Independent Theatre. 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.
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.
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.
In 1955, he obtained United States citizenship and did not return to Australia until 1974.
Elliott's best known novel, Careful, He Might Hear You, won the 1963 Miles Franklin Award and was turned into a film in 1983.
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.
He died of colon cancer in New York City in 1991.
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