Cast & Crew
In July 1900, twelve-year-old Leo Colston accompanies schoolmate Marcus Maudsley home for the summer holiday to Brandham Hall, the Maudsleys' estate in Norfolk, England. The aristocratic Maudsleys are cordial, though somewhat distant to Leo, who is the son of a respectable but impoverished widow. Leo is fascinated by the huge estate and family, but especially Marcus' beautiful older sister Marian, who makes a fuss over him. When the summer heat makes Leo's woolen suit unbearable, Marian suggests that she buy him a new suit for his upcoming thirteenth birthday. The pair enjoy their outing in Norwich, then separate briefly, enabling Marcus to explore. Just before they meet in the town square, Marcus sees Marian talking with a man. Later, when Mrs. Maudsley casually asks if they were together the entire time, Marian lies that they were, and Leo concurs. Because a case of measles has confined Marcus to his room, Leo accompanies the family to church, where Hugh Trimingham, a kind young viscount who has a badly scarred cheek, chats with him and playfully asks him to be his "Mercury" and deliver a message to Marian. The next day, while Leo explores the grounds of the estate, he comes upon the farm of Ted Burgess, whom he had seen earlier swimming in the river. When Leo hurts his knee sliding down a haystack, Ted cleans the cut and, after questioning the boy about the Maudsleys, asks him to deliver a letter to Marian, telling him that it must be given to her in secret. Later, when Marian bandages his wound, Leo gives her the note, and is puzzled when she furtively places it in her sleeve, imploring him not to tell anyone. Soon Leo becomes Marian and Ted's "postman," as they call him, happily delivering notes between Ted and Marian, whom he has come to idolize. A few days later, when Hugh asks Leo to find Marian, the boy goes into the woods and sees Marian emerge from some bushes. She initially snaps at Leo, but then softens when he says that he has been sent by Hugh to find her. As the days pass, Leo continues to be a postman for Ted and Marian, basking in his role as their go-between and confidant. One afternoon, when Leo is waiting for Marian to finish a note for Ted, Hugh enters her sitting room, forcing her to hurriedly slip the note to Leo without sealing it. On the way to deliver the note, Leo reads it and, realizing that it is not an exchange between secret friends, but actually a love note, he starts to cry and becomes angry. When he delivers the note to Ted, Leo says that he can no longer act as their postman because he will be spending his time with Marcus, who is now well. Sensing the boy's feelings for Marian, Ted tells Leo that Marian likes him and suggests that she will cry and be unhappy if she cannot depend on him to deliver her letters. Leo then scoffs that Ted and Marian's relationship is about "the kissing thing," and wants to know what the rest, which he calls "spooning," is. Although annoyed, Ted says that he will tell Leo, but only if he continues to be the postman. Some days later, at a village cricket match, Leo becomes the star player when he catches a ball hit by Ted, who is the best player in the village. At a banquet that evening, when Ted is coaxed into singing a song, Marian plays the piano for him, arousing her mother's curiosity over her nervousness. On the way home, Marcus tells Leo a secret, that Marian is engaged to Hugh. The next day, when Marian asks Leo to deliver another note, he refuses, saying it is because of Hugh. She then lashes out at him, accusing him of ingratitude, and asking if he wants to be paid for his service. Although hurt, Leo takes the note and goes to Ted, who refuses to tell Leo about spooning. Leo then writes a letter to his mother asking to return home sooner than planned. Later, Leo goes to Hugh and questions him about a story he has read in which two men duel over a woman, and Hugh tells him that the woman is never at fault. Leo then asks Hugh what he thinks of Ted. Hugh calls Ted a decent man, but wild and "a bit of a lady-killer," which later is confirmed by Mr. Maudsley. The next day, Leo goes to Ted again, and Ted apologizes for his earlier behavior, promising to tell him what he wants to know, but Leo declines, saying that he will soon be leaving. When they shake hands, Leo offers to take one last message to Marian, and Ted asks him to tell her "Friday at half past five, same as usual." When Leo delivers the message to Marian, he asks her why she must marry Hugh, prompting her to cry and embrace him, saying she cannot explain. After Leo receives a response from his mother stating that it would be rude to the Maudsleys to leave early, he goes into the garden and gathers belladonna to make a magic potion. While Marian is in London buying a dress for her engagement party, Marcus reveals to Leo that she is also buying him a bicycle for his birthday. On the morning of his birthday, Mrs. Maudsley tells Leo that they will have his cake at seven that night. He and Marian then go for a walk, and she asks him to deliver another message. As they playfully chase each other in the garden, her mother approaches and, seeing the note, asks what it is. Marian then says that it is a note for Nanny Robson, who is retired and lives nearby, to tell her that she will visit in the afternoon. Mrs. Maudsley is suspicious, and insists that Leo walk with her in the gardens, but Leo, who is fearful of her manner and questioning, says that he has dropped the note when she asks to see it. That evening, as the time for Leo's cake approaches, Marian has not returned. Because the weather has turned stormy, Mr. Maudsley suggests that the bad weather has kept her from walking home and sends the family's carriage for her. When the carriage returns empty, Mrs. Maudsley is told that Marian never visited Nanny Robson at all that day. Mrs. Maudsley now bitterly says that Leo knows where Marian is and grabs the boy's hand, then pulls him from the dining room, past the gardens and through to the estate's outbuildings. Inside one of the outbuildings, they interrupt Ted and Marian making love, stunning the young Leo. Decades later, the now middle-aged Leo returns to Norfolk after being summoned by Marian, who married Hugh and became Lady Trimingham after Ted's suicide. Although Hugh remained loyal to Marian, she became ostracized from her family because she bore Ted's child. Now an elderly woman, Marian only remembers her love affair as beautiful and happy and asks Leo, who, in her words, witnessed their happiness, to be her postman one final time and deliver a message to her estranged grandson. Although admonishing Leo for never marrying and being "dried up inside," Marian asks him to tell her grandson that he should be proud to be descended from such a beautiful love. Leo then leaves on his final errand as a go-between.
Roger Lloyd Pack
William S. Gilbert
Denis Johnson Jnr.
Best Supporting Actress
Dominic Guard made his feature debut as Leo, a sensitive and sincere boy who is not part of this family's world, but merely a tourist in a culture where social standing defines every relationship. Leo is tolerated and at times even doted upon, like a favored pet, perhaps, and he's smitten by Marian, the beautiful older sister who smiles favorably upon him. When he meets Ted Burgess, a nearby tenant farmer, he's drafted into becoming the secret "postman" between the two. It's a mere game for the boy, who is thrilled to be part of this grown-up secret, but a dangerous affair for Marian, who is to be engaged to a genuine aristocrat. Leo isn't judgmental but his innocence and his uncomplicated sense of right and wrong and loyalty tear at his fragile emotional make-up when he becomes aware of what's really going.
Director Joseph Losey wanted to cast unknowns in the lead roles but financing was contingent on stars. The part of Marian, an eighteen-year-old girl, was rewritten for a decidedly more mature Julie Christie, who had time in her schedule for one project before heading back to the U.S. to star in the new film that Warren Beatty was developing with Robert Altman (it would become McCabe and Mrs. Miller ). Though the lovely Christie was considered the poster girl for modern youth and the swinging London culture thanks to her roles in Billy Liar  and Darling , she had more recently starred in Doctor Zhivago  and Far from the Madding Crowd  and was no stranger to period films and literary adaptations. Alan Bates, her co-star from Far from the Madding Crowd, was cast as the tenant farmer Ted Burgess and Edward Fox (who went on to star in Losey's screen version of A Doll's House ) was Hugh, Marian's cuckolded fiancé. Deborah Kerr was originally offered the part of the manor matriarch, Mrs. Maudsley, but turned it down because she felt the role only had a single good scene, toward the end of the film. Margaret Leighton accepted the role and makes the most of the scene by creating a character whose turbulent emotions are kept in check until the eruption at the film's climax.
The Go-Between was shot almost entirely on location in Norfolk, where Losey rented an abandoned manor and had it made over top to bottom for the film. The rest of the locations were found nearby. "Norfolk helped me a lot because Norfolk hasn't changed," said Losey in an interview years later. "Most of the costumes were genuine; we made very few others. And we all lived in the house. They wore the costumes all the time and ate as well as acted in their costumes... once you've got the exact house, accessories, costumes, something then springs to life."
The Go-Between was the third and final collaboration between director Joseph Losey and Harold Pinter, the acclaimed playwright and screenwriter. Years earlier Pinter had started a first draft of it before a rights dispute tied up the project. After the issue was cleared up, Pinter scrapped his first treatment and began from scratch with a whole new approach. "Now what I find most exciting about the subject is the role of time: the annihilation of time by the man's return to the scene of his childhood experience," Pinter explained to critic John Russell Taylor. In some ways it was an extension of Pinter's second collaboration with Losey, Accident , where past and present events were woven into a dense pattern. Hartley's novel tells the story as an extended flashback, the old man remembering that summer fifty years ago. Pinter creates a more complex relationship between past and present, encouraged by Losey. "I am fascinated by the concept of time," he remarked to interviewer Michel Ciment, "and by the power the cinema has to suddenly reveal the meaning of a whole life from the age of 12 to 60...." In fact, the first flash-forwards are a jarring intrusion on the film, unexpected and unexplained until the final act when it becomes clear that these modern scenes and reflective voice-overs are the final chapter of the story.
The Go-Between made its premiere at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival where it won the Palm D'Or, the highest honor that the festival can bestow and the most prized award in the world of film festivals. Back in Britain, it was nominated for twelve BAFTAs (the British Academy Awards) and took home four, for Pinter's screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Edward Fox) and Actress (Margaret Leighton) and Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles (Dominic Guard). (It lost out on Best Film and Best Director to John Schlesinger's Sunday Bloody Sunday, 1971.) In the U.S. it wasn't quite as successful, but it earned solid reviews (Vincent Canby wrote in the New York Times that is was "one of the loveliest, and one of the most perfectly formed, set and acted film we're likely to see this year...") and an Oscar® nomination for Margaret Leighton. Losey and Pinter never collaborated on another film, yet they remained friends and the film appeared to have a lasting effect on Pinter, whose subsequent plays and scripts show a great interest in memory and fractured timelines.
Producers: John Heyman, Norman Priggen; Denis Johnson (uncredited)
Director: Joseph Losey
Screenplay: Harold Pinter; L.P. Hartley (novel "The Go-Between")
Cinematography: Gerry Fisher
Art Direction: Carmen Dillon
Music: Michel Legrand
Film Editing: Reginald Beck
Cast: Julie Christie (Marian - Lady Trimingham), Alan Bates (Ted Burgess), Margaret Leighton (Mrs. Maudsley), Michael Redgrave (Leo Colston), Dominic Guard ('Leo' Colston), Michael Gough (Mr. Maudsley), Edward Fox (Hugh Trimingham), Richard Gibson (Marcus Maudsley), Simon Hume-Kendall (Denys), Roger Lloyd Pack (Charles), Amaryllis Garnet (Kate).
by Sean Axmaker
Sir Alan Bates (1934-2003)
Born Alan Arthur Bates on February 17th, 1934 in Derbyshire, England, Bates was the son of amateur musicians who wanted their son to become a concert pianist, but the young man had other ambitions, bluntly declaring to his parents that he had his sights set on an acting career when he was still in secondary school. He eventually earned a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, but had his career briefly interrupted with a two-year stint in the Royal Air Force. Soon after his discharge, Bates immediately joined the new English Stage Company at the Royal Court Theatre and by 1955 he had found steady stage work in London's West End theatre district.
The following year, Bates made a notable mark in English theatre circles when he starred as Cliff Lewis in John Osborne's charging drama about a disaffected, working-class British youth in Look Back in Anger. Bates' enormous stage presence along with his brooding good looks and youthfulness (he was only 22 at the time of the play's run) made him a star and promised great things for his future.
Four years later, Bates made a solid film debut in Tony Richardson's The Entertainer (1960) as the son of a failing seaside entertainer, played by Sir Laurence Olivier. Yet it would be his next two films that would leave an indelible impression in '60s British cinema; Bryan Forbes' Whistle Down the Wind (1961) and John Schlesinger's A Kind of Loving (1962). Bates' performances as a murderer on the lam who finds solace at a farm house in the company of children in the former, and a young working-class husband who struggles with his identity in a loveless marriage in the latter, were such finely nuanced portrayals of loners coping with an oppressive social order that he struck a chord with both audiences and critics alike. Soon, Bates was considered a key actor in the "angry young men" movement of the decade that included Albert Finney and Tom Courtney.
For the next ten years, Bates simply moved from strength to strength as he chose film roles that both highlighted his range and raised his stock as an international celebrity: reprising his stage role as the brutish thug Mick in the film adaptation of Harold Pinter's The Caretaker (1963); starring alongside Anthony Quinn as the impressionable young writer Basil in Zorba the Greek (1964); the raffish charmer Jos who falls in love with Lynn Redgrave in the mod comedy Georgy Girl; the bemused young soldier who falls in love with a young mental patient (a radiantly young Genevieve Bujold) in the subdued anti-was satire King of Hearts (both 1966); reuniting with director Schlesinger again in the effective period drama Far from the Madding Crowd (1967); a Russian Jew falsely accused of murder in John Frankenheimer's The Fixer (1968, remarkably, his only Oscar nomination); as Rupert, the freethinking fellow who craves love and understanding in Ken Russell's superb Women in Love (1969); playing Vershinin in Sir Laurence Olivier's underrated The Three Sisters (1970); opposite Julie Christie in Joseph Losey's tale of forbidden love The Go-Between (1971); and his moving, near-tragic performance as Bri, a father who struggles daily to maintain his sanity while raising a mentally disabled daughter in the snarking black comedy A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (1972).
Bates would slow down his film work, concentrating on the stage for the next few years, including a Tony award winning turn on Broadway for his role in Butley (1972), but he reemerged strongly in the late '70s in three good films: a conniving womanizer in The Shout; Jill Clayburgh's love interest in Paul Mazursky's hit An Unmarried Woman (1978); and as Rudge, Bette Midler's overbearing manager in The Rose (1979).
By the '80s, Bates filled out somewhat physically, but his now burly presence looked just right in some quality roles: as the notorious spy, Guy Burgess, in John Schlesinger's acclaimed mini-series An Englishman Abroad (1983); a lonely homosexual who cares for his incarcerated lovers' dog in the charming comedy We think the World of You (1988); and a superb Claudius in Franco Zeffirelli's Hamlet (1990).
Tragically, Bates lost his son Tristan to an asthma attack in 1990; and lost his wife, actress Victoria Ward, in 1992. This led to too few film roles for the next several years, although he remained quite active on stage and television. However, just recently, Bates has had some choice moments on the silver screen, most notably as the butler Mr. Jennings in Robert Altman's murder mystery Gosford Park (2001); and scored a great comic coup as a gun-toting, flag-waving Hollywood has-been in a very broad satire about the Canadian movie industry Hollywood North (2003). Also, theatre fans had a treat when Bates appeared on Broadway last year to critical acclaim (and won a second Tony award) for his portrayal of an impoverished 19th century Russian nobleman in Fortune's Fool (2002). Most deservedly, he was knighted earlier this year for his fine contributions as an actor in all major mediums. Sir Alan Bates is survived by two brothers Martin and Jon, son Benedick and a granddaughter.
by Michael T. Toole
Sir Alan Bates (1934-2003)
United States copyright records list Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. as the copyright claimant for The Go-Between, although onscreen credits list E.M.I. Film Productions, Ltd. as the claimant. Just after the opening credits, actor Michael Redgrave recites, in voice-over, the following line, which is also the opening line of the L. P. Hartley novel on which the film was based: "The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there." Interspersed at various points throughout the film's main story, which is set in 1900, are brief shots of Redgrave as the middle-aged "Leo Colston" arriving at a train station, riding in a chauffeur-driven car, then being seated in a small drawing room. The flash-forwards, which take place circa 1950, gradually become more frequent and longer in the last third of the film, sometimes with dialogue between the elderly "Marian," now "Lady Trimingham," and Leo heard in voice-over to the main story, or, at other times, shown in partial scenes. At the end of the film, the emphasis between the two stories is reversed, with the main action taking place in 1950 interspersed with flashbacks to the 1900 story.
The film utilizes the flash-forwards as cinematic devices to convey reminiscences that are related in the novel as the older Leo reads through his diary for the year 1900, when he stayed with the Maudsley family at Brandham Hall. Although the film generally follows the development of the story within the novel, the novel fleshes out Leo's background and inner turmoil about life, class and sex. In the novel, it is stated that "Ted Burgess" went home and shot himself immediately after he and Marian were caught making love, whereas, in the film, his death is related through a brief shot of him, apparently dead, holding a revolver. Frequently throughout the film, Leo is called either "Mercury" or "Postman" by various characters, which is used as a plot device to illustrate Leo's increasing discomfort with his role as a go-between.
According to news items, M-G-M had originally planned to produce an adaptation of Hartley's novel in the mid-1950s. Filmfacts reported that British producer Alexander Korda purchased the rights to the novel shortly after it was published and planned to star Margaret Leighton, who portrayed "Mrs. Maudsley" in the released film, as Marian, and have Nancy Mitford adapt the novel for the screen. According to the pressbook for The Go-Between, Joseph Losey and Harold Pinter first talked about adapting Hartley's novel while making Accident because both men admired the book. The Go-Between marked the third and final screen collaboration between Losey and Pinter, who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005. Their previous collaborations were The Servant, released in 1964, and Accident, released in 1967 (see below and above).
The Go-Between was one of several films announced in June 1970 as part of a co-production arrangement between M-G-M and EMI. However, shortly before the film received the Grand International Prize at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival, where it was the official British entry, M-G-M sold the North American distribution rights to Columbia. As reported in many news items and reviews, M-G-M had little faith in the highly lyrical film's box-office appeal. According to a December 1974 Films and Filming article, an executive of M-G-M [identified in other sources as M-G-M president and CEO James T. Aubrey, Jr.] dismissed The Go-Between as "the greatest still picture ever made."
Although the onscreen credits state that the film was shot on location in Norfolk, England and at the EMI-MGM Elstree Studios, the studio work appears to have been confined to post-production. Various press releases and contemporary news items state that Melton Constable Hall, a derelict 17th century house twenty miles outside Norfolk, was renovated to become Brandham Hall for the film. Norfolk locations included Thornage, which served as the setting for the cricket match, and the village of Heydon.
Upon its release in North America, most critics praised the film, particularly citing Joseph Losey's lyrical direction and Michel Legrand's score. In its review of the film Variety erroneously credited the score to Richard Rodney Bennett, an error that the paper corrected a few days later. Leighton was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. The film received BAFTA awards for Best Screenplay (Harold Pinter); Best Supporting Actor (Edward Fox); Best Supporting Actress (Leighton) and Outstanding Newcomer (Dominic Guard). The picture marked the feature film debut of Guard, who previously had appeared in the British television series Dombey and Son.
Released in United States 1971
Based on the L. P. Hartley novel "The Go-Between" (London, 1953).
Feature film debut for Guard.
The United Kingdom
Released in United States 1971