Terence Rattigan Centenary

Created in February 2011, this page provides information on the work, in theater and film, of the British playwright Sir Terence Rattigan (1911-1977). It will be updated throughout the year.

Though [Rattigan's] twenty-four plays are not flawless, the clarity of conception and construction in the majority [is] outstanding. They have "good bones"--a prime requisite for aging well, and a startling contrast with the degrees of calcium deficiency evident in other playwrights of the last thirty years. . . .
It will take time and greater familiarity with Rattigan's plays for . . . critics to shed prejudices against well-made plays, to appreciate Rattigan's meticulous craftsmanship, and to recognise all the levels of meaning within it. . . .
Rattigan's work will be better and more widely appreciated when the universality of the psychological problems he dramatizes is acknowledged. . . .
The respect for individuals conveyed in Rattigan's characterizations was extended to his actors and audiences through the trust he placed in both. This trust, which rests upon [his] use of dramatic implication, is proving well-founded with succeeding generations of performers and playgoers. . . .
Rattigan's ability to challenge actors and to stir audiences lives [on].
-- Holly Hill, "Rattigan's Renaissance," Aristos, inaugural issue, June 1982 (posted online in Aristos, February 2011; see link below)

NOTE: Celebration of Terence Rattigan's centenary is in full swing in the U.K., as documented on the official website devoted to him and on the Facebook page for the centenary. Productions of Rattigan plays abound there, and the British press is taking ample note. Sad to say, however, America has thus far been virtually oblivious of the occasion. For shame! It seems that only two theater companies are mounting productions (see below), and not one major periodical has as yet noted the anniversary.

Readers are urged to contact the editors of Aristos regarding new U.S. productions of the plays, as well as reviews and relevant articles (both online and print). Suggestions and corrections for this page are always welcome.

* Terence Rattigan
* Answers.com
* Facebook

* Timeline and Synopsis

Plays: Centenary Productions in the United States
* Separate Tables, Hillbarn Theatre, March 10-27, Foster City, Calif. (According to the Hillbarn, this production of the play "pokes a little fun at the repressed mores of the 1950s [and] . . . will make you laugh about some of the outmoded conventions in our past." Rattigan does not "poke fun" at such mores, however, as the 1958 film version of Separate Tables amply attests, and as Holly Hill implies in emphasizing the profound nature of Rattigan's "psychological portraiture" [see "Rattigan's Renaissance"]. Nonetheless, the Hillbarn is to be commended for mounting the play, and its production may still be worth seeing.)

* After the Dance," Standing O Productions, February 4-12 at the Chesapeake Academy Black Box Theatre, Arnold, Md.

Plays in Print

* The Collected Plays of Terence Rattigan: Volume One: The Early Plays, 1936-1952, Paper Tiger, 2001.

* The Collected Plays of Terence Rattigan: Volume Two: The Later Plays, 1953-1977, Paper Tiger, 2001.

* Plays - One (French Without Tears, The Winslow Boy, The Browning Version), Methuen Drama, 1982.

* Plays - Two (Deep Blue Sea, Separate Tables, In Praise of Love, Before Dawn), Methuen Drama, 1985.

* Separate Tables, Nick Hern Books, 1999.

* The Browning Version, Nick Hern Books, 2008.

* The Winslow Boy, Nick Hern Books, 2000. [Based on news accounts of actual events around 1910.]

Film Versions of Plays

* The Browning Version, 1951 (recommended), starring Michael Redgrave, directed by Anthony Asquith. Remake, 1994, starring Albert Finney.

* Separate Tables [original trailer, etc.] [much more], 1958 (recommended), starring Deborah Kerr, David Niven, Rita Hayworth, and Burt Lancaster, with Wendy Hiller; directed by Delbert Mann (b&w). TV Adaptation (VHS: 50 min.), 1983, starring Julie Christie and Alan Bates, with Claire Bloom; directed by John Schlesinger.

* The Winslow Boy, 1948 (recommended), starring Robert Donat, directed by Anthony Asquith. DVD is in a non-U.S. format (see Amazon.com page for explanation). Remake, 1999 (also excellent), starring Jeremy Northam and Rebecca Pidgeon, directed by David Mamet. [Cross-Examination Scene ("spoilers" that you might want to skip): 1948, 1999.] BBC production, 1989 (very fine), starring Gordon Jackson, Ian Richardson, and Emma Thompson, not available in DVD or VHS; see YouTube clips: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

Note: If you plan to view this film, we recommend that you do so prior to reading "Rattigan's Renaissance" (cited above), which discusses the play at some length. A brief synopsis follows to whet your appetite: Set in London around 1910, the story begins after Ronnie Winslow, a fourteen-year-old cadet at the Royal Naval College, has been expelled for allegedly stealing a five-shilling postal order. When he professes his innocence, his father believes him and, together with Ronnie's older sister, Catherine, strives to clear his son's name, whatever the cost. The third major character is Sir Robert Morton, one of England's leading barristers, whom the family seeks to engage to defend Ronnie against the full force of the British government. The rest is the stuff of high drama and romance, played out against the social and political upheavals of the era.

Films with Original Screenplays by Rattigan

* The Way to the Stars [non-U.S. format] [U.S. title: Johnny in the Clouds], 1945, starring Michael Redgrave and John Mills, directed by Anthony Asquith.

* The Yellow Rolls-Royce [more], 1964, starring Ingrid Bergman and Rex Harrison, directed by Anthony Asquith.

Select Readings

* John A. Bertolini, "Terence Rattigan (1911-1977) [first page]," British Writers: Supplement VII, ed. Jay Panini, (New York: Scribner's, 2002), 307-322.

* Theodore Dalrymple, "Reticence or Insincerity, Rattigan or Pinter," New Criterion 19:3 (November 2000), 12-20.

* Michael Darlow, Terence Rattigan: The Man and His Work [more], Quartet Books, 2000.

* Richard Foulkes, "Terence Rattigan's Variations on a Theme," Modern Drama 22 (1979), 375-82.

* Robert F. Gross, "Terence Rattigan (1911-1977)," British Playwright s 1860-1956: A Research and Production Sourcebook, eds. William Damastes and Katherine E. Kelly (Westport: Greenwood, 1996), 339-51.

* Holly Hill, "Rattigan's Renaissance," Aristos, Vol.1, No.1 (June 1982). Posted online in Aristos, February 2011. (See Note below The Winslow Boy, under Film Versions of Plays.)

* Robert Machray, "The Browning Version by Terence Rattigan" (theater review), BlogCritics.org, February 9, 2010.

* Susan Rusinko, Terence Rattigan, Twayne's English Authors Series 366 (Boston: Twayne, 1983).

* ----, "Terence Rattigan," British Dramatists Since World War II: Part 2: M-Z, Dictionary of Literary Biography, ed. Stanley Weintraub (Detroit: Thomson Gale, 1982), 420-33.

* Geoffrey Wansell, Terence Rattigan: A Biography, Fourth Estate, 1995.

* Bertram A. Young, The Rattigan Version: Sir Terence Rattigan and the Theatre of Character, Atheneum, 1988.