6 user 15 critic

Butley (1974)

R | | Drama, Romance | April 1976 (UK)
An English professor finds his life crumbling around him.


Harold Pinter


Simon Gray (play), Simon Gray (screenplay)




Cast overview:
Alan Bates ... Ben Butley
Jessica Tandy ... Edna Shaft
Georgina Hale ... Carol Heasman
Michael Byrne ... Reg Nuttall
Susan Engel ... Anne Butley
Simon Rouse ... Gardner
Richard O'Callaghan ... Joey Keyston
Oliver Maguire Oliver Maguire ... Man in the Tube
Darien Angadi Darien Angadi ... First Student
Colin Haigh Colin Haigh ... Second Student


A day in the life of Ben Butley. But definitely not a day to remember for this T.S. Eliot scholar at the University of London. Let's take for example Anne, his already estranged wife: today is the day she has chosen to tell him she is leaving him for good, and for a man Butley despises, and what about Joey Kingston, whose close friendship Ben is losing, maybe forever today? Decidedly, all the odds are against him. Will Butley, the bitter misanthropist, the unrepentant alcoholic, the teacher who bullies his students, his friends, and his colleagues, in other words, the self-destructive nihilist, survive this horrible day? Written by Guy Bellinger

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


His wife just left him for another man. And so did his boy friend. See more »


Drama | Romance


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


The original Broadway production of "Butley" written by Simon Gray opened at the Morosco Theater in New York City on October 31, 1972, ran for one hundred thirty-five performances, and was nominated for the 1973 Tony Award for the Best Play. Sir Alan Bates re-created his 1973 Tony Award winning performance Best Actor in Play in this filmed production based on the Simon Gray play and screenplay. See more »


Ben Butley: I'm a one-woman man, and I've had mine, thank God.
See more »

User Reviews

Astonishing virtuosity
24 April 2003 | by grahamclarkeSee all my reviews

The American Film Theatre was a praiseworthy effort to present classic modern plays to a wide audience. The series petered out when it became clear that there was in fact not enough of an audience to make the venture viable. This left us with a group of films, or rather filmed plays, of varying quality but always interesting, if not only for the wonderful casts assembled for the series. "Butley" was one of the best. After years of oblivion, the series is finally and thankfully being released.

The problem with Simon Gray's very engaging play is that the characters are people one would hardly want to meet. They are a deeply flawed, unlikable bunch. As such we have little sympathy for any of them and hence Gray, intentionally or not, does not allow the viewer to connect emotionally with his characters. He instead allows us to watch as Ben Butley's life slowly disintegrates before our eyes. Despite the enforced detachment, it still remains a fascinating process, thanks to Pinter's precise direction, Gray's very sharp dialogue and Alan Bates delivering an astonishingly virtuoso performance.

It's one of those extremely rare performances in which the actor becomes completely engulfed by the character. It's a feat to behold; almost scary at times. This alone makes "Butley" an unforgettable experience.

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Release Date:

April 1976 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Simon Gray's Butley See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:



Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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