7.2/10
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6 user 14 critic

Butley (1974)

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

Director:

Harold Pinter

Writers:

Simon Gray (play), Simon Gray (screenplay)
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Cast

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
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

Butley...perfectly poised on the losing end of a one-on-one relationship. See more »

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK | Canada | USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

April 1976 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Simon Gray's Butley See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Leonard Rossiter was booked to appear, but was forced to drop out. See more »

Quotes

Ben Butley: You know how it exhausts me to teach books I haven't read.
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User Reviews

 
The brilliance of Alan Bates, who was Simon Gray's "muse and alter-ego"
24 November 2011 | by angelofvicSee all my reviews

Simon Gray's extremely talky, darkly comic 1971 play is cinematized here, direct from the text, for television's American Film Theatre.

Doughy-faced and feckless-looking Alan Bates gives a bravura, nonstop performance as the eponymous sloppy, over-literate, misanthropic, washed-up English professor at the University of London. He is an unlikeable character, so there's no sympathizing with him; it's more like watching a train wreck.

But Bates inhabits the role fiercely, and makes him entertaining and lively -- and at times funny -- enough to hold our attention for the two-hour performance, 95% of which takes place in a single room. The room is Butley's office, which he shares with his longterm young lover Joey, now an assistant lecturer.

"Butley" feels a bit like Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", which was written nine years prior to Gray's play. Butley's verbal diatribes go for the jugular, but in allusive, literary or nursery-rhymey, uber-rhetorical, abstract, indirect, and bitterly sarcastic ways. It's a lot to pay attention to -- especially the literary quotes and allusions. And sometimes it's a bit much watching a man go through a slow meltdown in the guise of skewering anyone and everyone around him: Joey, his ex-wife, his students and colleagues, Joey's new love interest, and anyone who even tries to get close to or talk reason to him.

What seems like it might become unrelieved verbal cruelty is thankfully mitigated from time to time by the thoughtful, intelligent, gentle integrity of Joey (wonderfully played by Richard O'Callaghan, who, like Bates, originated his role), and by some real laugh-out-loud moments, and by a character or two who seem for a time to beat Butley at his own cruel mind games.

In the end, the play seems to come full circle metaphorically, giving the audience at least a sense of symmetry and unity and finally quietude before it closes. A worthwhile watch if you like cinematized plays or want more of the very impressive Alan Bates.


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