7.4/10
5,202
29 user 31 critic

Prick Up Your Ears (1987)

R | | Biography, Drama | 8 May 1987 (USA)
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 »

Director:

Stephen Frears

Writers:

John Lahr (based on the biography by), Alan Bennett (screenplay)

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Gary Oldman ... Joe Orton
Alfred Molina ... Kenneth Halliwell
Vanessa Redgrave ... Peggy Ramsay
Wallace Shawn ... John Lahr
Lindsay Duncan ... Anthea Lahr
Julie Walters ... Elsie Orton
James Grant James Grant ... William Orton
Frances Barber ... Leonie Orton
Janet Dale Janet Dale ... Mrs Sugden
Dave Atkins Dave Atkins ... Mr Sugden
Margaret Tyzack ... Madame Lambert
Eric Richard ... Education Officer
William Job William Job ... RADA Chairman
Rosalind Knight Rosalind Knight ... RADA Judge
Angus MacKay Angus MacKay ... RADA Judge
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

They shared everything - except success.

Genres:

Biography | Drama

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

8 May 1987 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Das stürmische Leben des Joe Orton See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$1,654,743
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

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

Trivia

Kenneth Halliwell created the title "Prick Up Your Ears" for Orton's (never produced) film for The Beatles called "Up Against It", but Orton said: "This is much too good a title to waste on a film." See more »

Goofs

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 »

Quotes

Leonie Orton: [mixing Joe and Kenneth's ashes] I think I'm putting in more of Joe than I am of Kenneth.
Peggy Ramsay: It's a gesture, dear, not a recipe.
See more »

Connections

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

Soundtracks

A Day in the Life
Written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Very good
9 April 2006 | by preppy-3See all my reviews

Movie about gay London playwright Joe Orton (Gary Oldman) who was killed by his lover Kenneth Halliwell (Alfred Molina) in 1967. It's done with Vanessa Regrave as Orton's agent and Wallace Shawn as an investigative reporter piecing together Orton's life and his relationship with Halliwell. It shows how it started out great but Halliwell's reputation went nowhere while Orton wrote some very dirty (and funny) plays. This upset Halliwell and shows how he finally cracks.

This isn't for everybody. This shows a VERY graphic and unflinching view of gay life in London in the 1960s (when it was against the law). It seems Orton was very sexually active with others (that probably didn't help his relationship with Halliwell) and we're shown a few acts (all within an R rating). Oldman is just great--he LOOKS like Orton and gives a wonderful performance. Molina is good but he doesn't look a thing like Halliwell. Halliwell was about the same size and shape as Orton--Molina is tall and hulking--all wrong for the role. Shawn is lots of fun getting into Orton's life and Redgrave is just superb as his agent--who ever knew she could do comedy so effortlessly? She casually throws out some wonderful lines with a little smile on her lips. Also Julie Walters has a very very good scenes as Orton's sister.

The only thing this lacks is some insight into HOW Orton wrote his plays and why he was thinking certain things. However it could be nobody knows. A great film--Oldman and Redgrave's show all the way. Again, not for people that have trouble with gay scenes or dialogue. I remember quite a few gasps from the audience when I saw it in a theatre in 1987 during the scene where Oldman french-kisses another guy. I give this an 8.


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