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Pinter, Harold (1930-2008)

Writer, Director, Actor

Main image of Pinter, Harold (1930-2008)

Achieving widespread recognition as Britain's leading dramatist and screenwriter of the 1960s, Harold Pinter has remained an important figure in British literary culture, and latterly in dissident political circles. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005.

The only child of a Jewish Hackney tailor, he briefly attended RADA, making his debut as professional actor in 1950. Pinter's recurrent dramatic themes of time, memory, territorial control, and communication breakdown also appear in his screenplays, which include adaptations of his plays The Caretaker (filmed in a Hackney house in 1964, d. Clive Donner), The Birthday Party (d. William Friedkin, 1968), The Homecoming (d. Peter Hall, 1973), and Betrayal (d. David Jones, 1982), as well as skilful reworkings of novels by Nicholas Mosley, L.P. Hartley, John Fowles and others, in which he displayed the ability to absorb their narrative ideas, yet turning them into an extension of his own world.

He formed a rich creative partnership with Joseph Losey starting with The Servant (1963), an adaptation of a 1949 novella which becomes classic Pinter, supplemented by Losey's rich, baroque visual textures. In the academic and sexual intrigues of Accident (1967), every line of elliptical dialogue has a tactical purpose, and nothing is innocent of intent; The Go-Between (1971), an exploration of youth and age, time and memory, was his final adaptation for Losey; and The French Lieutenant's Woman (d. Karel Reisz, 1981) was a clever reworking of a difficult novel.

Pinter has regularly directed and acted in theatre, directed the film of Butley (1974), and appeared occasionally in minor film acting roles. Awarded CBE, 1965; BAFTA Fellowship, 1997. He was married firstly to Vivien Merchant (1956-80) and then to author Lady Antonia Fraser (1980).

Making Pictures: the Pinter Screenplays by Joanne Klein (1985)
The Life and Work of Harold Pinter by Michael Billington (1996)
The Films of Harold Pinter edited by Steven H .Gale (2001).
Sharp Cut: Harold Pinter's Screenplays and the Artistic Process by Steven H. Gale (2003)

Roger Phillip Mellor, Encyclopedia of British Film

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Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Accident (1967)Accident (1967)

A fatal car accident triggers an intense psychological drama

Thumbnail image of Caretaker, The (1963)Caretaker, The (1963)

Donald Pleasance, Alan Bates and Robert Shaw star in Pinter's classic

Thumbnail image of Go-Between, The (1971)Go-Between, The (1971)

Acclaimed adaptation of L.P. Hartley's novel about a boy's loss of innocence

Thumbnail image of Pumpkin Eater, The (1964)Pumpkin Eater, The (1964)

Fascinating, underrated study of a troubled marriage

Thumbnail image of Quiller Memorandum, The (1966)Quiller Memorandum, The (1966)

Berlin-set spy thriller about a neo-Nazi gang, scripted by Harold Pinter

Thumbnail image of Servant, The (1963)Servant, The (1963)

James Fox and Dirk Bogarde's savage attack on the British class system

Thumbnail image of Lover, The (1963)Lover, The (1963)

Tense Harold Pinter drama about an unusual middle-class marriage

Thumbnail image of Night Out, A (1960)Night Out, A (1960)

Harold Pinter's first television play, about an oppressed 'mother's boy'

Related collections

Thumbnail image of Armchair Theatre (1956-74)Armchair Theatre (1956-74)

Hugely influential ITV anthology drama series

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