Harold Pinter

Harold Pinter

Critics savaged his first London-produced full-length play "The Birthday Party" (1958) so viciously that Pinter mothballed his next one "The Hothouse" until directing a production of it himself decades later in 1980. By 1960, however, when "The Caretaker" opened, reviews recognized the fresh new talent, awards showered down upon him, and his breakthrough play immediately took the theater world by storm. Pinter solidified his reputation with plays like "The Homecoming" (1965), which received the Tony Award for Best Play when it was produced in the USA in 1967, and the tour de force "Betrayal" (1978), in which he brilliantly altered the chronology in his triangular tale of love, starting at the end and working forward. Many of his early plays debuted first on either radio or TV, and as he was an adept master of the subtext-obscuring surface patter, it was only a matter of time before the movies came calling.Pinter's first screen work came with a typically cryptic adaptation of Robert Maugham's novel, "The Servant" (1963), marking the beginning of a multi-film association with director Joseph Losey that also included "The Accident" (1967) and "The Go-Between" (1971). A real filmmaker and egoist, Losey determined Pinter would serve him, and the resultant pictures benefited from their battle of wills. In addition to his work with Losey, Pinter provided an excellent screenplay for "The Pumpkin Eater" (1964) and the critically-acclaimed film-within-a-film adaptation of John Fowles' "The French Lieutenant's Woman" (1981). Though the tension he was able to generate on stage diminished in film, his screen versions of his plays, most notably "The Homecoming" (1973), often met with favorable response. His adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel "The Last Tycoon" (1976) garnered mixed reviews, and he scripted fairly pedestrian movies like "The Handmaid's Tale" (1989), "The Comfort of Strangers" (1991) and "The Trial" (1993). Pinter has frequently directed for the stage, occasionally his own plays, but more often the work of Simon Gray, including "Butley" (1971), with which he made his film-directing debut in 1974. He also directed Robert Shaw's "The Man in the Glass Booth" (1968), for which he received a 1969 Tony nomination and a successful London revival of Tennessee Williams' "Sweet Bird of Youth" (1985), starring Lauren Bacall. As an actor, he has made periodic appearances in films he scripted, playing an amusing producer in "Accident" (1967), cameos in others like "The Servant" or "Turtle Diary" (1985). On stage, he also acted opposite Liv Ullmann and Nicola Pagett in a US production of his "Old Times." The man whose name forms an adjective in the Oxford English dictionary (Pinteresque to describe the elliptical style he popularized) signed a deal with Fox Searchlight in 1997 to adapt Isak Dinesen's short story "The Dreaming Child" for Julia Ormond to produce.