A Gentleman’s Gentleman

“Get out of the way, I’ll show you what I am. I’m a gentleman’s gentleman, and you’re no bloody gentleman!”

 
 

 
 

The Servant is Harold Pinter‘s 1963 film adaptation of a novelette by Robin Maugham(Falcon Press 1948). A British production directed by Joseph Losey, it stars Dirk Bogarde, Sarah Miles, Wendy Craig and James Fox. It opened at London’s Warner Theatre on 14 November 1963. The Servant won three British Academy Film Awards. Wendy Craig replaced Vanessa Redgrave who was to make her feature debut but had to drop out because she was pregnant with her elder child (Natasha Richardson).

 
 

‘It was Losey who first showed Robin Maugham’s novelette The Servant to Bogarde in 1954. Originally separately commissioned by director Michael Anderson, Pinter stripped it of its first-person narrator, its yellow book snobbery and the arguably anti-Semitic characterisation of Barrett – oiliness, heavy lids – replacing them with an economical language that implied rather than stated the slippage of power relations away from Tony towards Barrett

Nick James
Joseph Losey & Harold Pinter: In Search of PoshLust Times

 
 

Originally planned as a film by a different director, Michael Anderson. It was he who commissioned Harold Pinter to write the script, in 1961. When Anderson dropped out of the project, Joseph Losey took over and insisted that Pinter’s script be extensively rewritten. This led to what Losey claimed was their only quarrel in over twenty years of close friendship. The Servant is the first of Harold Pinter’s three film collaborations with Joseph Losey. The other two were Accident (1967) and The Go-Between (1971).

When Joseph Losey was hospitalized for two weeks during this shoot, Dirk Bogarde continued filming assisted by minute, daily instructions over the phone from Losey’s hospital bed. When Losey returned to the set he did not re-shoot any of the script, much to the relief of cast and crew.

 
 

 
 

Tony (James Fox), a wealthy young Londoner, hires Hugo Barrett (Dirk Bogarde) as his manservant. Initially, Barrett appears to take easily to his new job, and he and Tony form a quiet bond, retaining their social roles. Relationships begin shifting, however, and they change with the introduction of Susan (Wendy Craig), Tony’s girlfriend, who seems to be suspicious of Barrett and to loathe all he represents. Barrett brings Vera (Sarah Miles), whom he presents as his sister, into Tony’s household as a maidservant, but it emerges that Vera is actually Barrett’s lover. Through Barrett’s and Vera’s games and machinations, they reverse roles with Tony and Susan; Tony becomes more and more dissipated, sinking further into what he perceives as their level, as the “master” and the “servant” exchange roles. In the final scene, Tony has become wholly dependent on Barrett, and Susan is exiled permanently from the house.

 
 

 
 

Although Losey’s films are generally naturalistic, The Servant‘s hybridisation of Losey’s signature Baroque style, film noir, naturalism and expressionism and both Accident‘s and The Go-Between‘s radical cinematography, use of montage, voice over and musical score amount to a sophisticated construction of cinematic time and narrative perspective that edges this work in the direction of neorealist cinema. All three films are marked by Pinter’s sparse, elliptical and enigmatically subtextual dialogue, something Losey often develops a visual correlate for (and occasionally even works against) by means of dense and cluttered mise en scene and peripatetic camera work.

 

To watch the movie clip Staircase Quarrel from The Servant , pease take a gander at The Genealogy of Style‘s Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Genealogy-of-Style/597542157001228?ref=hl

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Close Connection

 
 

Wayne Mullins gives a pretty good account of Ginsberg-Lennon- Beatles connection in the article – Long John Silver and the Beats. He quotes in part (recalling their very first meeting) Marianne Faithfull‘s account – It’s London, 1965 – «Then Allen Ginsberg came in… He went over to the chair (Bob) Dylan was sitting in and plonked himself down on the armrest…John Lennon broke the silence snarling: “Why don’t you sit a bit closer then, dearie?”, The insinuation – that Allen had a crush on Dylan was intended to demolish (him), but since it wasn’t far from the truth anyway, Allen took it very lightly. The joke was on them, really. He burst out laughing, fell off the arm and onto Lennon’s lap. Allen looked up to him and said, “Have you ever read William Blake, young man?”… And Lennon in his Liverpudlian deadpan said, “Never heard of the man”. Cynthia (Lennon), who wasn’t going to let him get away with this even in jest, chided him; “Oh, John, stop lying.” That broke the ice.»

 
 

as filenameAllen Ginsberg celebrating his 39th birthday in film-maker David Larcher’s Chelsea basement apartment with Miles and Sue Miles.

 
 

Ginsberg with Barbara Rubin, Allen’s 39th birthday party

 
 

There’s also, that same year (on the occasion of that same UK visit, in fact), Allen’s notorious 39th birthday party, attended (a surprise visit, late in the night) by John and Cynthia, George Harrison and Pattie Boyd, (and, fortunately for them, no cameras!). Confronted by an essentially naked Allen (naked, except for a “No Waiting” sign hung around his penis!), Lennon was, apparently, mortified, horrified – “You don’t do that in front of the birds” (the women – sic)”, he allegedly, declared.

Legendary meetings with his heros. In subsequent years, and specifically when John moved to New York City and was politically active in a number of causes, their friendship blossomed. Here’s Allen, from his 1972 PEN Club recommendation (on the occasion of Lennon’s visa-immigration problems), citing him as being, “in the line of descent of (Thomas) Campion, (Edmund) Waller and (John) Dowland fellow language-ayre minstrels celebrated in the great tree of British poesy”. And, again, in a note, written January the following year – “So Lennon’s particularly interesting in English minstrel’s tradition – remember (William) Shakespeare wrote songs, “With a Hey and a Ho and a Hey nonny-o.. with Hey! with Hey! The thrush and the jay”.” “Dull minds observing Lennon transform himself into an angry bodhisattva of song for the masses, have mistaken his verse to be over-simplistic. On the contrary, it’s an ancient perfectly subtle, humble, artful simplicity, the condensation of common social language into hard strong human personal verse”.. “To sum up, Lennon/Ono (Lennon) is a conscious poet coherently adapting traditional poetic song devices to new consciousness, new technology electronic mass ear education; one brilliant development of modern poetry completely realized”.

Finally, this, from a letter (to Barry Miles, circa 1976) – “I was passing by (the) Dakota Apartments last month, phoned upstairs and visited John Lennon and Yoko Ono for an hour. Lennon said he was retired temporarily from the L.A. music scene, staying home with baby and extreme clean diet… Said he was lying sleepless one night listening to WBAI (radio on) earphones and heard someone reciting a long poem, he thought it was (Bob) Dylan till he heard the announcer say it was (Allen) Ginsberg reading Howl…said he’d never read it or understood it before, (he’d eye’d the page but, “I can’t read anything, I can’t get anything from print”), but once hearing it aloud, he suddenly understood, he said, why Dylan had often mentioned me to him, and suddenly realized what (it was) I was doing, and dug it…said he didn’t understand (hadn’t understood) at the time. He’d seen me as some strange interesting American supposed-to-be-a poet hanging around but didn’t understand exactly what my role was. Now he said he understood how close my style was to Dylan’s, and how it influenced Dylan and also dug my voice reciting, the energy…It sure was nice hearing Lennon close the gap, complete that circle and treat me as a fellow artist as he walked me to the door goodbye”.