IMDb > The Philanthropist (1975) (TV)

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Release Date:
29 October 1975 (UK) See more »
The original play by Christopher Hampton, was adapted into this made-for-TV movie and it offers witty... See more » | Add synopsis »
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User Reviews:
Classic of a playwright's craftsmanship snuck up on me with its empathy See more (2 total) »


  (in credits order) (complete, awaiting verification)

Ronald Pickup ... Philip

Helen Mirren ... Celia

James Bolam ... Don

Charles Gray ... Braham
Jacqueline Pearce ... Araminta
Colin Higgins ... John
Amanda Knott ... Liz
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Monica Kendall ... Student (uncredited)

Directed by
Stuart Burge 
Writing credits
Christopher Hampton (by)

Produced by
Cedric Messina .... producer
Production Design by
Don Homfray 
Costume Design by
Roger Reece 
Makeup Department
Judy Neame .... makeup artist
Art Department
Michael Graham-Smith .... graphic designer
Sound Department
Colin Dixon .... sound
Camera and Electrical Department
Peter Catlett .... lighting technician
Michael Sanders .... still photographer (as Mike Sanders)
Editorial Department
John Barclay .... vision mixer
Other crew
Alan Shallcross .... script editor
Malachy Shaw Jones .... production assistant
Crew believed to be complete

Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

90 min
Aspect Ratio:
1.33 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:

Did You Know?

The original Broadway production of "The Philanthropist" by Christopher Hampton opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theater on March 15, 1971, ran for 64 performances and was nominated for the 1971 Tony Award for the Best Play.See more »


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Classic of a playwright's craftsmanship snuck up on me with its empathy, 28 December 2015
Author: lor_ from New York, New York

Excelling in wit, timing and cleverness, Christopher Hampton's "The Philanthropist" is deceptively light and satirical, so for the first half or so of Stuart Burge's TV adaptation I was amused but kept at a distance by all that craft. Yet the seemingly artificial and extreme title character (terrifically played with perfect sense of timing by Ronald Pickup) eventually provided some dark points of identification for me, and I felt quite moved up until the return to cutesy light-heartedness at the end.

Hampton is delightfully making fun of conversationalists -those raconteurs one encounters at parties or who used to be a fixture when I was growing up on TV talk shows like Jack Paar, later Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin and Dick Cavett. The Ashley Montagus, Alexander King and various intellectuals no longer on the booking rosters of the current Jimmys.

So stealing the show is the inimitable Charles Gray as an acerbic but highly successful author, not meant to be a Kingley Amis type but he might as well have been. His cynicism, nastiness and generally horrible nature is astounding to listen to, but of course the unique Gray, in a role just before he did the "Rocky Horror" film, raises it to classic status.

His verbal adversary is Pickup who plays a professor of philology who is so agreeable, or seems to be at first glance, so noncommittal as to appear to be an intelligent buffoon. He plays off the other characters especially his best friend fellow prof James Bolam in verbal sparring matches where he is inherently always the loser, and once the opening scene's very black and morbid comedy is out of the way, he is a bit hard to take, perhaps accounting for the play's failure on stage when starring the likes of (talented but not in Pickup's class) Alec McCowen and more recently Matthew Broderick.

The DVD revival of this masterwork is pegged to the supporting role of Helen Mirren, in her thriving stage career post-showy film roles for Michael Powell, Ken Russell and Lindsay Anderson. She is a beautiful, natch, foil for Pickup and her presence some 40 years later as I watched helped generate sympathy for Ronald since in retrospect he is up against perhaps the most successful actress in her particular range. Their final scene together is immensely moving and worth waiting for after the more shallow ones preceding it.

Special mention should be given to the ultra-sexy performance by Jacqueline Pearce in a rather strangely written nymphomaniac role. I had seen her many times making a good impression in everything from Hammer Films to "The Avengers" with Patrick Macnee, but this sexpot is how I will remember her.

The only fault with "The Philanthropist", way too late for a decades-after rewrite, is that Hampton sabotages the heart of the work by way too much emphasis on showing off. Entertaining to be sure, but the more he piles on with social criticism and satirical characterizations the more distance he establishes between the characters and the viewer. I have several (thank God not too many) of The Philanthropist's traits, notably taking everything literally, so I began to identify with him, but simply imagining a Boulevard comedian like Broderick in the role (or any of the great French stars in a Moliere vein like Pierre Mondy or Michel Serrault) I could see where a well-adjusted audience would slough the character and the play off as merely mildly amusing.

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