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 ...
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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 <email@example.com>
Wallace Shawn, who plays John Lahr, is (in addition to being an actor) an acclaimed playwright and screenwriter. Until her 1991 death, his play agent was Peggy Ramsay, who was also Joe Orton's agent and who appears in this film as the character played by Vanessa Redgrave. 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. But new pence weren't introduced until 1971. See more »
If they could have been traditionally married, they could have been traditionally divorced
Before writing this I saw an interview with Kenneth Williams best known as being part of the Carry On troupe. He gave some interesting insights into Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell. As a gay man himself Williams experienced and felt the same things in the days before sodomy laws were repealed in the United Kingdom, considerably before they were in the USA. The pressures of living as a couple increased exponentially especially a May/August couple as Orton and Halliwell were.
Joe Orton whose work I'd like to see and is curiously unavailable is played by Gary Oldman and we see him as a young writer befriended and mentored by Kenneth Halliwell who is older and played by Alfred Molina. Williams says that in his opinion there is no doubt the influence that Halliwell had on Orton's work. But they were two very different types of personality and probably were fated to come apart. Especially when Halliwell who mentored Orton was not finding any success with his own writing. In the end it destroyed them.
Great Britain had some strict sodomy laws as Oscar Wilde was living testimony to. Gay artists however got different treatments depending on who their patrons were. Oscar Wilde and the Orton/Halliwell duo in their respective generations were treated one way. But Noel Coward moved at the highest levels of British society and he had a Teflon like immunity from what befell the other three.
The film is told in flashback with Vanessa Redgrave as Orton's agent telling his biographer Wallace Shawn what the two were about individually and separately. Both Oldman and Molina were brilliant.
I can't help thinking that if they could have been traditionally married back then, they could also have been traditionally divorced when the love faded. That certainly would have been better all around.
But then we would not have had this fascinating tragedy.
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