Pinter, Harold, 1930-2008

Alternative names
Birth 1930-10-10
Death 2008-12-24
English, Italian, French

Biographical notes:

English playwright, screenwriter, actor, theatre director, left-wing political activist and poet.

From the description of Landscape : typescript with autograph revisions : [England?, 1967]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270914943

English playwright, actor, director, screenwriter, and poet.

From the description of Harold Pinter Collection, 1960-1980. (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (HRC); University of Texas at Austin). WorldCat record id: 122590489

Harold Pinter, playwright.

From the description of No man's land: typescript, n.d. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122456327

One of England's most important playwrights, Harold Pinter was born in Hackney, near the East End of London, on October 10, 1930. The son of tailor Hyman Jack Pinter and Frances Mann Pinter, he grew up in a working class environment. While attending Hackney Downs Grammar School, he became interested in acting and participated in school productions, and he also began writing essays and poetry. In 1948 Pinter was admitted to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, but he left after two terms. From then until 1958 he worked as an actor, using the name David Baron from 1954 to 1958. He acted in BBC radio programs, attended the Central School of Speech and Drama (1951), toured Ireland with Anew McMaster's Shakespearean repertory company for 18 months, and then worked in various other repertory companies, including Donald Wolfit's Shakespearean company.

During that time, Pinter continued to write poetry and short prose pieces; his poetry was first published in Poetry London in 1950 under the pseudonym Harold Pinta. In 1957 Pinter was asked to write a play for the drama department at Bristol University, and in four days he wrote The Room, which was very well received and was entered in the Sunday Times student drama festival. A favorable review of that play led Michael Codron to produce Pinter's next play, The Birthday Party, which was not successful and closed after a week's time. However, his second full-length play, The Caretaker (1960), received critical acclaim. A prolific writer, Pinter went on to write numerous radio plays, television plays, and short plays, as well as full-length plays, for the stage. A Slight Ache (1959), which had been commissioned by the BBC and was later adapted for the stage, gained him the attention of a broader public. From then on, his reputation grew until he became known as one of the most influential and important dramatists of post-war England, responsible for the creation of two new dramatic terms, Pinteresque (defining his unique style) and Pinter pause (referring to his use of meaningful silences). The Homecoming (1965) is widely considered Pinter's best and most important play, but his other full-length plays, such as Old Times (1971) and Betrayal (1978), have also been significant. In addition to his stage and radio plays, Pinter has written screenplays, including The Servant (1962), Accident (1967), The Go-Between (1971), The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981), Turtle Diary (1985), The Trial (1989), and The Handmaid's Tale (1990), among others. Pinter did not abandon his interest in poetry; besides publishing several volumes of poetry, he has also edited anthologies of poetry, including Ninety-Nine Poems in Translation (1994).

Pinter is an accomplished director and has directed productions of his own plays and others; he served as Associate Director at the National Theatre from 1973 until 1983.

Pinter has been married twice: first to actress Vivien Merchant (1956-80), with whom he had one son, and second to author Lady Antonia Fraser (1980-).

From the guide to the Harold Pinter Collection TXRC99-A23., 1960-1980, (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin)

Pinter was born on 10 October 1930, the only child of Jack and Frances Pinter and educated at Hackney Downs Grammar School, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and the Central School of Speech and Drama.

In 1956 he married the actress Vivien Merchant (b 1929, d 1982). Their marriage was dissolved in 1980 and in the same year he married the writer Lady Antonia Fraser (b 1932). Between 1951 and 1957 Pinter's primary employment was as an actor, mainly working with touring repertory companies.

Pinter's literary career began in 1957 with the writing of his play The Room and its production at the University of Bristol. Thereafter he wrote plays for stage, television, radio and film and adapted the work of others for the screen. Pinter was also a director, directing the plays of other writers and some productions of his own plays. He wrote poetry and continued to perform occasional acting roles on stage, screen and radio. Pinter was an Associate Director of the National Theatre, 1973 to 1983.

He had an interest in international and domestic political issues and was involved with several political causes and organisations. In addition to numerous honorary degrees, Pinter was awarded many prizes and awards including a CBE (1966), Shakespeare Prize (1970), David Cohen Prize for Literature (1995), Laurence Olivier Special Award (1996), BAFTA fellowship (1997), Companion of Literature (1998), Brianza Poetry Prize (2000), Companion of Honour for Services to Literature (2002), Nobel Prize for Literature (2005) and Légion d'honneur (2007). Pinter had a strong interest in cricket and had connections with the Gaieties Cricket Club. He died on 24 December 2008.

Epithet: playwright, director and actor

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000000205.0x0003df


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  • Poets, English
  • Dramatists, English
  • Screenwriters--England
  • Theater
  • Motion picture plays
  • Screenwriters
  • Drama
  • Television plays


  • Actors
  • Directors
  • Dramatists
  • Editors


  • England (as recorded)