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Prick Up Your Ears (1987)

This film is the story of the spectacular life and violent death of British playwright Joe Orton. In his teens, Orton is befriended by the older, more reserved Kenneth Halliwell, and while ... See full summary »



(screenplay), (based on the biography by)

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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 5 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Peggy Ramsay
John Lahr
Anthea Lahr
Elsie Orton
James Grant ...
William Orton
Leonie Orton
Janet Dale ...
Mrs Sugden
Dave Atkins ...
Mr Sugden
Madame Lambert
Eric Richard ...
Education Officer
William Job ...
RADA Chairman
Rosalind Knight ...
RADA Judge
Angus MacKay ...
RADA Judge


This film is the story of the spectacular life and violent death of British playwright Joe Orton. In his teens, Orton is befriended by the older, more reserved Kenneth Halliwell, and while the two begin a relationship, it's fairly obvious that it's not all about sex. Orton loves the dangers of bath-houses and liaisons in public restrooms; Halliwell, not as charming or attractive as Orton, doesn't fare so well in those environs. While both long to become writers, it is Orton who achieves fame - his plays "Entertaining Mr. Sloane" and "Loot" become huge hits in London of the sixties, and he's even commissioned to write a screenplay for the Beatles. But Orton's success takes him farther from Halliwell, whose response ended both his life and the life of the up-and-coming playwright. Written by Gary Dickerson <slug@mail.utexas.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


They shared everything - except success.


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

8 May 1987 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Ciuliti-va urechile  »

Box Office


$1,654,743 (USA)

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


The interior (certainly not the exterior as the real house is mid-terraced) of Joe and Ken's flat was filmed in the actual flat where Orton and Halliwell lived (25 Noel Road). However, the murder at the end is filmed on a studio set. See more »


When Joe's agent first meets him in 1964, she asks him how he's been supporting himself. He tells her he's on public assistance, getting £3.10 per week. New pence weren't introduced until 1971. However, in the pre-decimal era, "Three pounds ten" would have been understood as "Three pounds and ten shillings", the present-day equivalent being £3.50. For example, "Maggie Mae", recorded by the Beatles in 1969 but based on a much older traditional song, includes the line "Two pounds ten a week, that was my pay." See more »


Joe Orton: [Ken and Joe are cruising a strange man] He's built like a brick shithouse!
Kenneth Halliwell: He's probably a policeman.
Joe Orton: I know, isn't it wonderful?
See more »


Referenced in Family Guy: Prick Up Your Ears (2006) See more »


By the Beautiful Sea
Written by Harry Carroll and Harold Atteridge
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User Reviews

Fantastic- need I say more?
13 December 2003 | by (Manchester England) – See all my reviews

One of Gary Oldman's first films and need I say, one of the best? Based on the biography by John Lahr, this film tells the true story of British playwright Joe Orton and his "friend" Kenneth Halliwell.

This film is sad because we all know the outcome of Joe and Kenneth right from the beginning. Interesting storyline, fantastic acting all round especially from Gary Oldman (Joe) and Alfred Molina (Kenneth) who both absorb into the characters with incredible style.

This film is a classic, especially if youre a Gary Oldman. This is another piece of evidence that Gary can not just act in a role, he can go into it.


24 of 28 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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