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Terence Rattigan: Wikis


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Sir Terence Mervyn Rattigan CBE (10 June 1911 – 30 November 1977) was one of England's most popular 20th century dramatists. His plays are generally situated within an upper-middle-class background.[1] He is known for such works as The Winslow Boy, The Browning Version and Separate Tables, among many others.


Life and career

Terence Rattigan was born in 1911 in South Kensington,[2] London of Irish Protestant extraction.[3] He had an elder brother, Brian. They were the grandsons of Sir William Rattigan, a notable Indian-based jurist, and later a Liberal Unionist Member of Parliament for North East Lanarkshire. His father was Frank Rattigan CMG, a diplomat whose exploits included an affair with Princess Elisabeth of Romania (future consort of King George II of Greece) which resulted in her having an abortion.[1]

Rattigan's birth certificate and his birth announcement in The Times both state he was born on 9 June 1911. However, most reference books state that he was born on 10 June, and Rattigan himself never publicly disputed this date. There is evidence suggesting that the date on the birth certificate is incorrect.[4] He was given no middle name, but he adopted the middle name "Mervyn" in early adulthood. He was educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Oxford.

Success as a playwright came early, with the comedy French Without Tears in 1936, set in a crammer. Rattigan's determination to write a more serious play produced After the Dance (1939), a satirical social drama about the "bright young things" and their failure to politically engage. The outbreak of the Second World War scuppered any chances of a long run. After the war, Rattigan alternated between comedies and dramas, establishing himself as a major playwright: the most famous of which were The Winslow Boy (1946), The Browning Version (1948), The Deep Blue Sea (1952), and Separate Tables (1954).

Rattigan believed in understated emotions, and craftsmanship, which after the overnight success of John Osborne's Look Back in Anger in 1956 was deemed old fashioned. Rattigan responded to his critical disfavour with some bitterness. Some churlish interviews served only to confirm the view that he had no sympathy or understanding of the modern world. His plays Ross, Man and Boy, In Praise of Love, and Cause Célèbre, however show no sign of any decline in his talent.

Rattigan was gay,[5] with numerous lovers but no long-term partners. It has been claimed that his work is essentially autobiographical, containing coded references to his sexuality, which he kept secret from all but his closest friends. There is some truth in this, but it risks being crudely reductive, for example the repeated claim that Rattigan originally wrote The Deep Blue Sea as a play about male lovers, turning into a heterosexual play at the last minute, is unfounded. On the other hand, for the Broadway staging of Separate Tables, he wrote an alternative version of the newspaper article in which Major Pollock's indiscretions are revealed to his fellow hotel guests; in this version, the people the Major approached for sex were men rather than young women. However, Rattigan changed his mind about staging it, and the original version proceeded.

Rattigan was fascinated with the life and character of T. E. Lawrence. In 1960 he wrote a play called Ross, based on Lawrence's expoits. Preparations were made to film it, and Dirk Bogarde accepted the role. However, it did not proceed because the Rank Organisation withdrew its support, not wishing to offend David Lean and Sam Spiegel, who had started to film Lawrence of Arabia. Bogarde called Rank's decision "my bitterest disappointment".

Also in 1960, a musical version of French Without Tears was staged as Joie de Vivre, with music by Robert Stolz of White Horse Inn fame. It starred Donald Sinden, lasted only four performances, and has never been revived.

He was diagnosed as having leukaemia in 1962 and recovered two years later, but fell ill again in 1968. He disliked the so-called Swinging London of the 1960s and moved abroad, living in Bermuda, where he lived off the proceeds from lucrative screenplays including The V.I.P.s and The Yellow Rolls-Royce. For a time he was the highest-paid screenwriter in the world.

He was knighted in the Queen's Birthday Honours of June 1971 for services to the theatre, being only the third playwright to be knighted in the 20th century (after Sir Arthur Wing Pinero in 1909 and Sir Noël Coward in 1970).[6] He had been appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in June 1958. He moved back to Britain, where he experienced a minor revival in his reputation before his death. He died in Hamilton, Bermuda from bone cancer in 1977 at the age of 66.

Fifteen years after his death, largely through a revival of The Deep Blue Sea, at the Almeida Theatre, London, directed by Karel Reisz, Rattigan has increasingly been seen as one of the century's finest playwrights, an expert choreographer of emotion, and an anatomist of human emotional pain. A string of successful revivals followed, including Man and Boy at the Duchess Theatre, London, in 2005, with David Suchet as Gregor Antonescu, and In Praise of Love at the Chichester Festival Theatre and Separate Tables at the Royal Exchange, Manchester, in 2006. His play on the last days of Lord Nelson, A Bequest to the Nation, was revived on Radio 4 for Trafalgar 200, starring Janet McTeer as Lady Hamilton, Kenneth Branagh as Nelson, and Amanda Root as Lady Nelson.

Stage plays

Television plays

Radio plays

Many of Rattigan's stage plays have been produced for radio by the BBC. The first play he wrote directly for radio was Cause Célèbre, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 27 October 1975, based on the 1935 murder of Francis Rattenbury.


Filmed plays

A number of Rattigan's plays have been filmed (he was the screenwriter or co-writer for all those made in his lifetime):

Original screenplays

Terence Rattigan also wrote or co-wrote the following original screenplays:

Other screenwriting

Rattigan wrote or co-wrote the following screenplays from existing material by other writers:


  1. ^ a b Geoffrey Wansell. Terence Rattigan (London: Fourth Estate, 1995) ISBN 9781857022018
  2. ^ Births England and Wales 1837-1915
  3. ^ Sir Terence Rattigan Pollard, Wendy. The Literary Encyclopedia. 24 May 2005, accessed 11 March 2009
  4. ^ Official Terence Rattigan website
  5. ^ Sinfield, Alan (1999), Out on Stage: Lesbian and Gay Theatre in the Twentieth Century, p. 159, ISBN 0300081022  
  6. ^ Geoffrey Wansell, Terence Rattigan: A Biography, p. 364

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Sir Terence Mervyn Rattigan (1911-06-101977-11-30) was an English dramatist and screenwriter. His plays include French Without Tears, The Winslow Boy, The Browning Version, The Deep Blue Sea and Separate Tables, all of which have been filmed. Like other proponents of the well-made play he fell out of fashion with the coming of the Angry young men and the kitchen sink drama.


  • Kenneth: If you’re so hot, you'd better tell me how to say she has ideas above her station.
    Brian: Oh, yes, I forgot. It's fairly easy, old boy. Elle a des idées au-dessus de sa gare.
    • French Without Tears, Act I. (1937)
  • When you're between any kind of devil and the deep blue sea, the deep blue sea sometimes looks very inviting.
    • The Deep Blue Sea, Act I. (1952)
  • Let us invent a character, a nice respectable, middle-class, middle-aged, maiden lady, with time on her hands and the money to help her pass it. She enjoys pictures, books, music, and the theatre and though to none of these arts (or rather, for consistency's sake, to none of these three arts and the one craft) does she bring much knowledge or discernment, at least, as she is apt to tell her cronies, she "does know what she likes". Let us call her Aunt Edna.
    • The Collected Plays of Terence Rattigan (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1953) vol. 1, p. xi.
  • A novelist may lose his readers for a few pages; a playwright never dares lose his audience for a minute.
  • Do you know what le vice Anglais – the English vice – really is? Not flagellation, not pederasty – whatever the French believe it to be. It's our refusal to admit to our emotions. We think they demean us, I suppose.
    • In Praise of Love, Act II. (1973)

External links

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