Harold Pinter, CH, CBE
(10 October 1930 – 24 December 2008), was an English playwright, screenwriter, actor, theatre director, poet, left-wing political activist, cricket enthusiast, and Nobel laureate.
He was one of the most influential and imitated of modern British dramatists. One of the most influential modern British dramatists, his writing career spanned more than 50 years. Pinter’s writing career spanned over 50 years and produced 29 original stage plays, 27 screenplays, numerous dramatic sketches, radio and TV plays, poems, one novel, short fiction, essays, speeches, and letters. His best-known plays include The Birthday Party (1957), The Caretaker (1959), The Homecoming (1964), and Betrayal (1978), each of which he adapted to film. His screenplay adaptations of others’ works include The Servant (1963), The Go-Between (1970), The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981), The Trial (1993), and Sleuth (2007). He directed almost 50 stage, television, and film productions and acted extensively in radio, stage, television, and film productions of his own and others’ works.
Pinter was born and raised in Hackney, east London, and informed at Hackney Downs School. He was a sprinter and a keen cricket player, acting in school plays and writing poetry. Consequently, he continued training at the Central School of Speech and Drama and worked in repertory theatre in Ireland and England.
His 2nd play, The Birthday Party, closed after 8 efficiencies, however was enthusiastically reviewed by critic Harold Hobson. Later plays such as No Man’s Land (1975) and Betrayal (1978) became known as “memory plays”. Pinter received over 50 awards, prizes, and other honours, including the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2005 and the French LÃ©gion d’honneur in 2007.
Despite frail health after being detected with oesophageal cancer in December 2001, Pinter remained to act on stage and screen, last performing the title role of Samuel Beckett’s one-act monologue Krapp’s Last Tape, for the 50th anniversary period of the Royal Court Theatre, in October 2006. He passed away from liver cancer on 24 December 2008.
Pinter was unquestionably influenced by his time at Hackney Downs School and particularly by one of its great teachers – Joe Brearly. Pinter wrote a poem:
Joseph Brearley 1909 – 1977 (Teacher of English)
Dear Joe, I’d like to walk with you
From Clapton Pond to Stamford Hill
Through Manor House to Finsbury Park,
On the dead 653 trolleybus.
And walk across the shadows on to Hackney Downs,
And stop by the old bandstand,
You tall in the moonlight,
And the quickness in which it all happened,
And the quick shadow in which it persists.
You’re gone. I’m at your side,
Walking with you from Clapton Pond to Finsbury Park,
And on, and on.
Nobel Lecture by Harold Pinter
Early life and education
Pinter was born upon 10 October 1930, in Hackney, east London, as the only kid of lower middle class English parents of Jewish Eastern European origins: his dad, Hyman “Jack” Pinter (1902– 1997) was a women’ tailor; his mother, Frances (nÃ©e Moskowitz; 1904– 1992), a homemaker. Pinter thought an auntie’s incorrect view that the family was Sephardic and had left the Spanish Inquisition; therefore, for his early poems, Pinter used the pseudonym Pinta and at other times used variations such as da Pinto.  Later on study by Lady Antonia Fraser, Pinter’s second other half, exposed the legend to be apocryphal; three of Pinter’s grandparents originated from Poland and the fourth from Odessa, so the family was Ashkenazic.
Pinter’s family home in London is described by his official biographer Michael Billington as “a solid, red-brick, three-storey villa just off the loud, dynamic, traffic-ridden road of the Lower Clapton Road”. In 1940 and 1941, after the Blitz, Pinter was left from their home in London to Cornwall and Reading.  Billington mentions that the “life-and-death intensity of everyday experience” prior to and during the Blitz left Pinter with profound memories “of isolation, loss, separation and bewilderment: styles that are in all his works.”.
Pinter found his social capacity as a student at Hackney Downs School, a London grammar school, between 1944 and 1948. “Partly with the school and partly through the social life of Hackney Boys’ Club … he formed a nearly sacerdotal belief in the power of male relationship. The good friends he made in those days– most specifically Henry Woolf, Michael (Mick) Goldstein and Morris (Moishe) Wernick– have always been an essential part of the emotional structure of his life.”   A major influence on Pinter was his inspirational English teacher Joseph Brearley, who directed him in school plays and with whom he took long strolls, talking about literature.  According to Billington, under Brearley’s direction, “Pinter shone at English, wrote for the school magazine and found a gift for acting.” In 1947 and 1948, he played Romeo and Macbeth in productions directed by Brearley.
At the age of 12, Pinter started writing poetry, and in spring 1947, his poetry wased initially published in the Hackney Downs School Magazine. In 1950, his poetry wased initially published outside of the school magazine in Poetry London, a few of it under the pseudonym “Harold Pinta”.
Sport and friendship.
Pinter enjoyed running and broke the Hackney Downs School running record. He was a cricket lover, taking his bat with him when evacuated during the Blitz. In 1971 he informed Mel Gussow: “among my primary obsessions in life is the video game of cricket– I watch and play and check out everything the time.” He was chairman of the Gaieties Cricket Club, a fan of Yorkshire Cricket Club, and dedicated a section of his main web site to the sport.One wall of his research study was controlled by a picture of himself as a boy playing cricket, which was explained by Sarah Lyall, writing in The New York Times: “The painted Mr. Pinter, poised to swing his bat, has a wicked sparkle in his eye; testosterone all but flies off the canvas.” Pinter accepted of the “urban and exacting concept of cricket as a vibrant theatre of aggression.”After his death, several of his school contemporaries recalled his accomplishments in sports, particularly cricket and running. The BBC Radio 4 memorial tribute consisted of an essay on Pinter and cricket.
Other interests that Pinter mentioned to recruiters are household, sex and love, drinking, writing, and reading.  According to Billington, “If the notion of male loyalty, competitive competition and fear of betrayal kinds a constant thread in Pinter’s work from The Dwarfs onwards, its origins can be found in his adolescent Hackney years. Pinter adores ladies, delights in flirting with them, worships their durability and strength. But, in his early work specifically, they are commonly seen as disruptive influences on some platonic and pure perfect of male relationship: one of the most important of all Pinter’s lost Edens.”.
Pinter was the author of 29 plays and 15 dramatic sketches and the co-author of two works for stage and radio. He was thought about to have been one of the most influential contemporary British dramatists, Along with the 1967 Tony Award for Best Play for The Homecoming and several other American awards and award nominations, he and his plays got many awards in the UK and elsewhere throughout the world.
Theme of Pinter’s Dramas
Pinter’s dramas often involve strong conflicts between ambivalent characters who struggle for verbal and territorial dominance and for their own versions of the past. Stylistically, these works are marked by theatrical pauses and silences, comedic timing, irony, and menace. Thematically ambiguous, they raise complex issues of individual identity oppressed by social forces, language, and vicissitudes of memory. In 1981, Pinter stated that he was not inclined to write plays explicitly about political subjects; yet in the mid 1980s he began writing overtly political plays. This “new direction” in his work and his left-wing political activism stimulated additional critical debate. Pinter, his work, and his politics have been the subject of voluminous critical commentary.
Pinter received over 50 awards, prizes, and other honours, including the Tony Award for Best Play for The Homecoming in 1967, eight BAFTA awards for screenwriting and a BAFTA Fellowship in 1997, the French Légion d’honneur in 2007, and 20 honorary degrees. Festivals and symposia have been devoted to him and his work. In awarding Pinter the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2005, the Swedish Academy noted: “Harold Pinter is generally seen as the foremost representative of British drama in the second half of the 20th century. That he occupies a position as a modern classic is illustrated by his name entering the language as an adjective used to describe a particular atmosphere and environment in drama: ‘Pinteresque’.”
Video of Excerpts from Pinter’s Plays and recollections from colleagues – some from Hackney Downs
Blue Plaque for Pinter’s birth Place.
Lady Antonia Fraser Pinter unveiled a plaque, sponsored by Clapton Pond Neighbourhood Action Group (CPNAG), on Saturday September 22, marking the house in Thistlewaite Road, Clapton, where Harold Pinter, her husband, was born and grew up.
Among those who turned out to mark the occasion with Lady Antonia and members of her family, were actor, writer, director Steve Berkoff, who also attended Hackney Downs School, and playwright Tom Stoppard, along with actor Julian Sands, who movingly read out a poem written by Harold about his Hackney Downs School teacher Joseph Brearley. Hackney North MP Diane Abbott, Willie Watkins, President of The Clove Club, Hackney Downs School Old Boys network, and local residents also attended.
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