Family & Companions
One of Britain's most acclaimed screenwriters, Dennis Potter pushed the boundaries of the TV drama format with provocative, innovative and often autobiographical works such as "Pennies from Heaven" (BBC1, 1978), "The Singing Detective" (BBC1, 1986) and "Brimstone and Treacle" (BBC2, 1987). Born in Berry Hill, Gloucestershire in 1935, Potter studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford University following his national service, and on graduating landed a trainee position with the BBC. After appearing in front of the camera for a documentary about his hometown, "Between Two Rivers" (BBC1, 1960), Potter then moved behind it, writing sketches for satirical comedy "That Was the Week That Was" (BBC1, 1962-63). He also published several books exploring Britain's class system, worked as a newspaper journalist and unsuccessfully stood as a Labour candidate at the 1964 General Election. But he found his true calling when he began writing for the anthology series "The Wednesday Play" (BBC1, 1964-1970). With their controversial subject matter, fourth wall-breaking structure and autobiographical inspiration, plays like "Stand Up Nigel Barton," "The Confidence Course" and "Alice" all set the template for Potter's career. Loosely based on the Italian adventurer's memoir, "Casanova," (BBC1, 1971) saw him transfer his talents to the TV serial, and was followed by adaptations of Angus Wheaton novel "Late Call" (BBC1, 1975), Christian fundamentalist Edmund Gosse's autobiography, "Where Adam Stood" (1976), and Thomas Hardy's "The Mayor of Casterbridge" (BBC1, 1978). Potter also contributed to eight episodes of anthology "Play for Today" (BBC1, 1970-1984) including "Blue Remembered Hills," a dramedy featuring adult actors playing child characters, sado-masochist fantasy "Double Dare" and "Brimstone and Treacle," a satanic suburban tale banned by the BBC for ten years but also made into a 1982 feature film. Potter also adapted "Pennies from Heaven "(BBC1, 1978), the ground-breaking anti-musical which mixed dark fantasy with lip-synching of vintage pop songs, for the big screen in 1981, penned a drama trilogy which included the award-winning "Cream in My Coffee" (ITV, 1980), and added "Gorky" (1983), a dramatization of Martin Cruz Smith's crime novel, and "Dreamchild" (1985), a reinterpretation of Alice in Wonderland, to his filmography. Potter then returned to the TV serial for the adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's "Tender is the Night" (BBC1, 1985) and "The Singing Detective" (BBC1, 1986), the highly acclaimed musical film-noir based on his own experiences of living with psoriasis which also received the Hollywood treatment in 2003. Following the George Harrison-produced "Track 29" (1987) and biopic "Christabel" (1988), Potter experienced a backlash with "Blackeyes" (BBC1, 1989), a miniseries about the sexual exploitation of a fashion model which some deemed misogynistic, and the similarly provocative "Secret Friends" (1991). "Lipstick on Your Collar" (Channel 4, 1993), a musical miniseries set during the Suez Crisis, was considered a return to form. But sadly just nine days after his wife Margaret died from cancer in 1994, Potter also lost his life to the disease aged 59. Several Potter works then premiered posthumously, including "Mesmer" (1994), "Cold Lazarus" (Channel 4, 1996) and "Karaoke" (Channel 4, 1996).
Director (Feature Film)
Cast (Feature Film)
Writer (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Special Thanks (Special)
Misc. Crew (Special)
Writer (TV Mini-Series)
Family moved to London when Potter was 14 (date approximate)
Wrote first novel, "The Glittering Coffin"
Worked for the London newspaper, THE DAILY HERALD; began as a feature writer, later worked as TV critic
Episodes of psoriatic arthropathy which afflicted him for the rest of his life first appeared at age 26, causing intense burning sensations on the skin, extensive blistering, swelled joints, periods of delirium and leaving his hands permanently clenched (date approximate)
Ran unsuccessfully as the Labour Party candidate for East Hertfordshire in the general election
Wrote first BBC teleplays, "The Confidence Courses", "Stand Up Nigel Barton"
BBC asked him to rewrite the teleplay, "Almost Cinderella", in which Prince Charming kills Cinderella at midnight by strangling her
First produced play, "Vote, Vote, Vote for Nigel Barton"
Became TV critic for THE SUNDAY TIMES of London
Penned the popular TV miniseries "Pennies From Heaven", which interpolated recordings from the 1930s and 1940s into the action, reflecting the thoughts and feelings of the characters
"Brimstone and Treacle" is banned by the BBC
Received Oscar nomination for US screen adaptation of "Pennies from Heaven"
First screenplay based on original work written by someone else, "Gorky Park"
First feature producing credit, as executive producer of "Dreamchild"
Directing debut, "Blackeyes", a BBC-TV production which was shown at several film festivals (also wrote)
Theatrical feature film directing debut, "Secret Friends"; also Potter's last feature film work
Completed last works for TV shortly before his death, the miniseries "Karaoke" and the TV-movie "Cold Lazarus"