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Film and Theatre: 1960s

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After 1945, British society began to change. By the 1960s a new sexual frankness was emerging and class barriers were breaking down. Drama and literature reflected and chronicled these changes. Novelists like John Braine and Alan Sillitoe described the lives of ordinary people. Theatre producers like Joan Littlewood and George Devine recruited new playwrights, directors and actors to bring something of the real world of the working class onstage.

Cinema was slow to follow, but John Osborne's groundbreaking play Look Back in Anger, staged at the Royal Court Theatre in 1956, was filmed by its stage director, Tony Richardson, in 1959. Richardson formed Woodfall Films with Osborne and Harry Saltzman, going on to transfer more of his stage hits to film, notably The Entertainer (1960) and the Roundhouse Theatre Hamlet (1969) with Nicol Williamson.

Throughout the 1960s, cinema reverted to its foolproof policy of transferring significant stage successes to celluloid, even when this led to censorship problems. Controversial plays by Ann Jellicoe, Willis Hall and Joe Orton all reached the screen, despite their sexual content or frank language. Many playwrights turned their hands to screenplay writing. Harold Pinter dissected the British class system in The Servant (d. Joseph Losey, 1963), and Peter Nichols helped to articulate Georgy's yearnings in Georgy Girl (d. Silvio Narizzano, 1966). Some, like Bill Naughton, adapted their own plays for film - Alfie (d. Lewis Gilbert, 1966).

Janet Moat

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