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Entertaining Mr Sloane (1970)

Courtesy of Canal+ Image UK ltd

Main image of Entertaining Mr Sloane (1970)
35mm, 94 mins, Technicolor
DirectorDouglas Hickox
Production CompanyCanterbury Films
ProducerDouglas Kentish
ScreenplayClive Exton
From the play byJoe Orton
CinematographyWolfgang Suschitzky
MusicGeorgie Fame

Cast: Beryl Reid (Kath); Harry Andrews (Ed); Peter McEnery (Mr Sloane); Alan Webb ('Dadda' Kemp)

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Middle-aged nymphomaniac Kath and her homosexual brother Ed fight for possession of Sloane, a young psychopath, who lodges with Kath next to the cemetery.

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If John Osborne was the original 'Angry Young Man' of British theatre in the 1950s, then Joe Orton was probably the 'Naughty Young Man' of the 1960s. Entertaining Mr Sloane was his first play, beginning as an experimental production at the Arts Theatre Club, London, in 1964, when Sloane was played by Dudley Sutton and Peter Vaughan took the role of Ed. It won critical praise and the London Evening Standard award for best play by a new dramatist, transferred to the West End for a long and successful run, and reached New York the following year.

Audiences were shocked - and amused - by the prim dialogue contrasted with violent and outrageous action. This was something new, a style all of Orton's own. The play is a black comedy and a parody of family life, dripping with sexual innuendo. It was produced for British television in 1968 (ITV, tx. 15/7/1968), and the film version appeared nearly two years later. Clive Exton's screenplay made some changes. The little suburban house becomes a mini-Gothic edifice complete with garden and conservatory. Almost blind in the play, the Dadda is the only character to 'see' through Sloane, but in the film he is equipped with a series of spy-holes throughout the house, through which he can watch every stage of Sloane's progress through his family. Ed's car is seen to be a bright pink Cadillac, which speaks volumes about the character.

Douglas Hickox had toiled for nearly twenty years as an assistant director, and director of commercials and short documentaries, before landing this, his first important feature film. His opening sequence fully realises the spirit of the play in filmic terms, when the camera pans from a funeral to show the grotesque Kath eating an ice lolly in close-up, and then reveals Sloane sunbathing on an adjacent tombstone, while a heavenly choir sings on the soundtrack. Throughout the film, the outrageous situations are juxtaposed with the gothic windows and stained glass of the house.

The Servant (Joseph Losey, 1963) also explored the theme of psychological and territorial ascendancy, but Sloane meets his match in Ed and Kath.

Orton repeated the winning formula in Loot (Silvio Narizzano, 1970), a satire on police corruption and the conventions of detective fiction, which was staged in 1966.

Janet Moat

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Video Clips
1. Family affairs (3:44)
2. Life is sweet (3:43)
3. Amoral Mr Sloane (4:12)
Servant, The (1963)
Entertaining Mr Sloane (1968)
Andrews, Harry (1911-1989)
Reid, Beryl (1919-1996)
Suschitzky, Wolfgang (1912-)