Born in Bristol, Fry was educated at Bedford Modern School and in 1927 gained his first professional theatrical experience as an actor in Bath. After a spell as a preparatory schoolteacher (1928–31) he returned to the theatre as director of the Tunbridge Wells Repertory Players (1932–35). His play The Boy with a Cart was published in 1939 but not produced professionally until 1950. In the meanwhile he also directed the Oxford Repertory Players (1940; 1944–46) and worked at the Arts Theatre, London (1945 and 1947). The highly acclaimed productions of A Phoenix Too Frequent (1946) and The Lady's Not for Burning (1948) established him as a popular writer of verse drama. Later plays included Venus Observed (1950), A Sleep of Prisoners (1951), The Dark is Light Enough (1954), Curtmantle (1961), and One Thing More, or Caedmon Construed (1986), and he also translated and adapted plays by Anouilh, Giraudoux, and Ibsen. He won the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 1962.
Fry provided the commentary for the 1953 film of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation and was also involved in writing the scripts for several films, including Ben Hur (1959). He also wrote The Brontës of Haworth (1973) for television.