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Terence Rattigan On Film: The Browning Version

I. The Rattigan Version

After his first dramatic success, The Winslow Boy, Terence Rattigan conceived a double bill of one-act plays in 1946. Producers dismissed the project, even Rattigan’s collaborator Hugh “Binkie” Beaumont. Actor John Gielgud agreed. “They’ve seen me in so much first rate stuff,” Gielgud asked Rattigan; “Do you really think they will like me in anything second rate?” Rattigan insisted he wasn’t “content writing a play to please an audience today, but to write a play that will be remembered in fifty years’ time.”

Ultimately, Rattigan paired a brooding character study, The Browning Version, with a light farce, Harlequinade. Entitled Playbill, the show was finally produced by Stephen Mitchell in September 1948, starring Eric Portman, and became a runaway hit. While Harlequinade faded into a footnote, the first half proved an instant classic. Harold Hobson wrote that “Mr. Portman’s playing and Mr. Rattigan’s writing

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