Trevor Rhone, a Jamaican playwright who co-wrote the reggae film classic “The Harder They Come” and helped introduce the island’s pop culture to the world, died Tuesday. He was 69.
Rhone died after a heart attack at a hospital in Jamaica’s capital, Kingston, according to his brother, Neville, and playwright Barbara Gloudon, a longtime friend and colleague.
Born in 1940, Rhone wrote more than a dozen plays, including his two-character comedy, “Two Can Play,” about a Jamaican couple who leave poverty-torn Kingston for an unexpectedly complicated new life in the United States.
But Rhone is best known for co-writing “The Harder They Come,” Jamaica’s first feature film, in the early 1970s with Perry Henzell, a filmmaker who died in 2006.
Starring reggae singer Jimmy Cliff, the film became an international success, and its pulsing soundtrack, which featured reggae performers including Toots and the Maytals and Desmond Dekker, became a worldwide top-seller.
The story was based on the life of Ivanhoe “Rhyghin” Martin, a notorious outlaw who terrorized sections of west Kingston during the late 1940s, and the screenplay displayed Rhone’s sharp ear for dialogue.
“His plays were authentically Jamaican. He provided a voice for real people at a time when there was none,” said Basil Dawkins, a Jamaican playwright.
Gloudon said Rhone’s death “leaves a vacuum in Jamaican theater.”
Henzell’s widow, Sally, remembered Rhone, who studied drama for three years in England, as a “great spirit” whose ebullient personality lit up the couple’s home in Kingston when the two men collaborated on writing “The Harder They Come.”
Rhone also wrote and directed the films “Smile Orange” and “One Love,” which starred Ky-Mani Marley, son of reggae legend Bob Marley, and was a well-regarded actor.
He is survived by his brother and three children. Funeral arrangements are pending, Neville Rhone said.