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Harold Pinter

Harold Pinter

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Also Known As: David Baron, Harold Pinta Died: December 24, 2008
Born: October 10, 1930 Cause of Death: cancer
Birth Place: Hackney, England, GB Profession: playwright, screenwriter, director, poet, actor, novelist

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

The preeminent playwright of his generation, Harold Pinter honed his literary skills during his twenties, traveling the lonely countrysides of Britain and Ireland as the actor David Baron in different repertory theater companies. The ellipses and pauses injected into his subsequent scripts are the direct result of his actor's crucible, having learned in everything from generic detective thrillers to Shakespeare how long a ham can hold a provincial audience's rapt attention with silence. Though certainly influenced by the spare, oblique wry dialogue of spiritual mentor Samuel Beckett and to a lesser degree the French absurdist school (i.e., Eugene Ionesco), Pinter's plays seem much more reality-based, grounded in the daily give-and-take of marriage, male friendship and family politics of English commoners. He became a master of "subtext", of that which is unsaid, the psychological life running just under the normal life, which calls the tune. Some people compare David Mamet to Pinter, and while on the surface their terse styles may warrant this, Mamet is a pale imitation of Pinter.

The preeminent playwright of his generation, Harold Pinter honed his literary skills during his twenties, traveling the lonely countrysides of Britain and Ireland as the actor David Baron in different repertory theater companies. The ellipses and pauses injected into his subsequent scripts are the direct result of his actor's crucible, having learned in everything from generic detective thrillers to Shakespeare how long a ham can hold a provincial audience's rapt attention with silence. Though certainly influenced by the spare, oblique wry dialogue of spiritual mentor Samuel Beckett and to a lesser degree the French absurdist school (i.e., Eugene Ionesco), Pinter's plays seem much more reality-based, grounded in the daily give-and-take of marriage, male friendship and family politics of English commoners. He became a master of "subtext", of that which is unsaid, the psychological life running just under the normal life, which calls the tune. Some people compare David Mamet to Pinter, and while on the surface their terse styles may warrant this, Mamet is a pale imitation of Pinter.

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Butley (1974) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Sleuth (2007)
2.
 Langrishe, Go Down (2002) Barry Shannon
3.
 Wit (2001) Mr Bearing
4.
 Tailor of Panama (2001) Uncle Benny
5.
 Mansfield Park (1999) Sir Thomas Bertram
6.
 Mojo (1997) Sam Ross
7.
 Turtle Diary (1986) Man In Bookshop
8.
 Accident (1967) Bell
9.
 The Servant (1964) Society man
10.
 Catastrophe (2002) Director
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Toured with British repertory and stock companies under name David Baron
1957:
Wrote first short play, "The Room"
1958:
First full-length play, "The Birthday Party," produced in Cambridge, England
1959:
"The Dumbwaiter", in German translation, produced in West Germany
1960:
"The Dumbwaiter" debuted in London on a bill that included "The Room"
1960:
"The Caretaker" opened to rave reviews in London
1963:
First screen adaptation, "The Servant"
1965:
"The Homecoming" received first performance in Wales
1968:
Double-bill of "The Basement" (originally produced for BBC) and "Tea Party" at Eastside Playhouse
1969:
Received Tony Award nomination for direction of "The Man in the Glass Booth" by Robert Shaw
1974:
First feature film as director, "Butley"
1975:
First production of "No Man's Land", London
1976:
Adapted F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Last Tycoon" for the screen version directed by Elia Kazan
1978:
"Betrayal" produced on London stage
1981:
Wrote film version of John Fowles' novel "The French Lieutenant's Woman"
1983:
Movie of "Betrayal" starred Ben Kingsley, Jeremy Irons and Patricia Hodge
1985:
Scripted film "Turtle Diary", with Glenda Jackson and Ben Kingsley
1990:
Adapted Margaret Atwood's novel "The Handmaid's Tale" for the screen
1991:
Wrote "The Comfort of Strangers", starring Christopher Walken, Natasha Richardson and Helen Mirren
1993:
Scripted "The Trial", film based on Franz Kafka tale
1995:
Acted the role of Roote, the totalitarian boss, in a revival of his play "The Hothouse", originally written in 1958 but not produced until 1980, a production directed by himself
1997:
Contributed to screenplay of Adrian Lyne's "Lolita"
1997:
Signed deal with Fox Searchlight to adapt Isak Dinesen's short story "The Dreaming Child" for Julia Ormond to produce and possibly to star
1998:
Had leading role in the film version of "Mojo", directed by Jez Butterworth
1999:
Cast as the patriarch of the Bertram family in the film adaptation of "Mansfield Park"
2001:
Acted in the film version of John Le Carre's novel "The Tailor of Panama"
2001:
Played the father of a college professor stricken with terminal cancer in "Wit" (HBO); character seen in flashbacks
2001:
Received tribute at NYC's Lincoln Center on occasion of his 70th birthday; nine of his plays were produced as well as screenings of films; acted in "One for the Road"
2001:
Directed London revival of "No Man's Land"
2002:
Staged a series of sketches and playlets performed in London, including the premiere of a new work, "Press Conference"
2006:
Appeared in the critically-acclaimed production of Samuel Beckett's "Krapp's Last Tape"
2007:
Penned the screen adaptation of Anthony Shaffer's play, "Sleuth" directed by Kenneth Branagh
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Hackney Downs Grammar School: - 1941 - 1947
Royal Academy of Dramatic Art: London , England - 1948
Central School of Speech and Drama: London , England - 1951

Notes

In late 2001, Pinter, who had been a heavy smoker, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and underwent chemotherapy.

Inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in 1998.

Joseph Losey on why he liked Pinter: "Observations of characters, a very acute awareness of class dynamics and contradictions. He does superbly evoke the visual for me, but I don't think he has any visual sense at all." --quoted in "A Biological Dictionary of Film" by David Thomson (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1994)

"I have enormous respect for Harold. I felt the combination would make a good wedding. And it did. Including our differences and fights! But there was an openness that I liked. What Harold does is get right to the point, he doesn't flower it and decorate it. We both love the book. And it was one of the best working relationships I can remember with a writer." --Jerry Schatzberg, director of "Reunion" (1975).

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Vivien Merchant. Actor. Divorced; died in 1983.
companion:
Joan Bakewell. TV host. Had romantic relationship from 1962 to 1969; Pinter used their relationship as a partial inspiration for his 1978 play "Betrayal".
wife:
Antonia Fraser. Writer. Married on November 27, 1980; appointed as a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) by Queen ELizabeth II in 1999.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Hyman Pinter. Tailor.
mother:
Frances Pinter.
son:
Daniel Pinter. Born c. 1959; mother, Vivian Merchant.

Bibliography close complete biography

"The Life and Work of Harold Pinter" Faber and Faber
"Various Voices: Prose, Poetry, Politics 1948-1998" Faber and Faber

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