Thursday, December 25, 2008


Harold Pinter (1930-2008)

By Edward Copeland
It was announced this Christmas morning that Nobel Prize-winning playwright and screenwriter Harold Pinter has succumbed to cancer after a long battle at age 78. Pinter always evoked mixed reactions from both critics and audiences with his often challenging works, where what wasn't said was often as important as what was.

Eleven of his plays were performed on Broadway, with several being revived, the most recent being The Homecoming last season, which our own Josh R hailed as sensational in his review.

The first Pinter play to ever hit the Great White Way was The Caretaker in 1961. He managed to win a Tony only once, for the original 1967 production of The Homecoming but he also was nominated for directing Robert Shaw's play The Man in the Glass Booth.

The only Pinter play I had the pleasure of seeing was a 1990s off-Broadway revival of The Hothouse, an oblique farce set in an institution that shows more of Pinter's wit than he's usually given credit for.

Pinter began writing screenplays about the same time as his plays began to hit Broadway, though some never played Broadway and were written exclusively for television. Among the notables: The Pumpkin Eater, which earned Anne Bancroft an Oscar nomination; Accident and The Go-Between, both directed by Joseph Losey; and The Comfort of Strangers.

He earned two Oscar nominations for adapted screenplay. One for adapting the novel The French Lieutenant's Woman and one for adapting his own brilliant play Betrayal. The story about a romance told in reverse chronological order starred Jeremy Irons and Ben Kingsley and remains one of my favorite films. It even inspired the great backward Seinfeld episode called "The Betrayal" where a character was named Pinter in further homage. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth and received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2005.

RIP Sir Harold.

To read The New York Times obit, click here

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He was one of the best, most challenging and most consistently inventive dramatists of the 20th century - and there are very few among the ranks of contemporary playwrights who can even hold a candle to him.
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