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Naked Civil Servant, The (1975)

Courtesy of FremantleMedia

Main image of Naked Civil Servant, The (1975)
ITV, tx.17/12/1975, colour, 85 mins
DirectorJack Gold
Production CompanyThames Television
ProducerBarry Hanson
ScreenplayPhilip Mackie
Autobiography byQuentin Crisp
PhotographyMike Fash
MusicCarl Davis

Cast: John Hurt (Quentin Crisp); Liz Gebhardt (art student); Patricia Hodge (ballet teacher); Stanley Lebor (Mr Pole); Katharine Schofield (Mrs Pole); Stephen Johnstone (young Quentin)

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The extraordinary life of flamboyant homosexual Quentin Crisp.

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Quentin Crisp was born Denis Pratt on Christmas Day 1908. As an openly gay man in a much less tolerant era, he suffered constant abuse and rejection in his quest to "make them understand". He may or may not have made society understand homosexuality, but he certainly raised awareness of it, and you could argue that freedom of sexual choice would not be as accepted today were it not for his courage and determination.

In 1968 a radio appearance led him to write his autobiography. It was anything but an instant success, selling only 3500 copies. But Thames's television adaptation of The Naked Civil Servant (ITV, tx. 17/12/1975) eight years later took Britain by storm and made Crisp an overnight celebrity. Crisp himself had no involvement in the production, except to introduce it and give a final summary.

John Hurt's unforgettable performance as Crisp won him a BAFTA for Best Actor, while director Jack Gold won the Academy's highest commendation, The Desmond Davies Award, for outstanding creative contribution to television. Credit for the film's success also goes to screenwriter Philip Mackie and producer Verity Lambert. Perhaps the highest praise is Crisp's christening of John Hurt as his "representative on earth." Hurt would play Crisp once more in another film, the semi-documentary Resident Alien (US, d. Jonathan Nossiter, 1990).

This is no shiny, romantic period drama. The production refuses to glamourise events and uses a muted palate of colours to drive home the harsh realities of Crisp's life. The story is episodic, basically a series of incidents charting Crisp's progression from his initial self-discovery, but his natural wit and unique perspective on life make the film hilarious and poignant by turn.

Rachel Wilson-Dickson

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Video Clips
1. Meet Quentin Crisp (1:29)
2. Bohemian life (5:40)
3. A happy war (4:19)
Davis, Carl (1936-)
Gold, Jack (1930-)
Hurt, John (1940-)
Lambert, Verity (1935-2007)
Mackie, Philip (1918-85)
Thames Television
The Television Play