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Harold Pinter

(1930—2008) English dramatist, actor, and director

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British playwright, director, and actor. He was awarded the CBE in 1966.

Pinter was educated at Hackney Downs Grammar School and in 1949 became an actor, working mainly in the provinces. In 1956 he married the actress Vivien Merchant (1929–82). The Birthday Party (1958) was his first full-length play, but his first success was with The Caretaker (1960); both plays were subsequently filmed. These plays, like The Homecoming (1964) and other early works, depend for their dramatic tension upon the nervous suspicious relationships between the principal characters, a theatrical style that attracted the label ‘comedy of menace’. His plays of the 1970s, such as No Man's Land (1975) and Betrayal (1978), explore the illusory nature of memory and subjective experience. During the 1980s Pinter campaigned actively for a number of left-wing causes and his plays from this period are mainly short parables on themes of oppression and injustice, notably Mountain Language (1988). Moonlight (1993), his first full-length play for fifteen years, was followed by Ashes to Ashes (1995).

In addition to his stage plays, Pinter has written drama for television and radio. He also wrote the screenplays for several distinguished films, beginning with The Servant (1962) and including The Go-Between (1969), The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981), Turtle Diary (1985), and The Comfort of Strangers (1989). Among the stage productions that he directed are a number of plays written by Simon Gray (1936–2008), including Butley (1971) and The Common Pursuit (1984). In 1980, after his first marriage was dissolved, Pinter married the historian Lady Antonia Fraser (1932– ).

Subjects: Performing artsTheatre

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