John Herbert, a Canadian playwright whose groundbreaking "Fortune and Men's Eyes" provided a glimpse of brutal sexual struggles behind prison doors, died Friday at his home in Toronto after a short illness. He was 75.
First presented off-Broadway in 1967, "Fortune" went on to be produced in more than 60 countries and was turned into a 1971 film, for which Herbert wrote the screenplay. The play was based on Herbert's experiences as a teenager in Canadian detention centers, where he was sent after he was charged with soliciting sex from a group of men whom he had accused of robbing him.
Critical reaction to his work was mixed. Times film writer Kevin Thomas said the movie "exploits rather than explores its material." But "Fortune" inspired the creation of the Fortune Society, which provides support for former inmates.
Herbert was born John Herbert Brundage. When he entered the theatrical profession, he dropped his last name because his sister, Nana, was already using it as a stage name, and he didn't want it to sound as if they were a brother-sister act.