BU Film School

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

FT 540 Reading: Prick Up Your Ears

Screenplay info
Written by: Alan Bennett, based on John Lahr's biography
Film info: http://us.imdb.com/Title?0093776

Synopsis
In 1967, the murder-suicide of Orton and Halliwell is discovered. Peggy takes Joe's diary (which has blood on it).

In the present, Peggy (who says she can't find the diaries) talks to Lahr. She mentions her first encounter with Orton, who was confident from the get-go.

In 1967, Orton and Halliwell are on their way to Halliwell's art show. They stop by the theater, where a poster declares Orton's "Loot" a success. Halliwell complains that "This was supposed to be my night." Orton and Halliwell arrive at the otherwise empty art gallery. Peggy and Philip (her husband), doing their duty, arrive. She buys one of Halliwell's pieces. Philip tells Joe that he doesn't owe Halliwell anything, but Joe says he can't leave Halliwell. Halliwell a "plain, envious failure." As Halliwell and Joe leave, Joe picks up a youth in the elevator. Halliwell calls Peggy's office looking for Joe. Joe there, though Peggy doesn't alert Halliwell.

In the present, Lahr returns home late. There is tension between him and Anthea, who is silently preparing dinner. Peggy arrives, with diaries.

In 1967, Joe is working on a script for the Beatles, using part of a novel he said he wrote years ago. Halliwell says that they wrote it, complains that he never gets credit.

In the present, Lahr talks to Joe's sister Leonie. She tells him about Joe taking acting lessons.

In 1950, Orton goes to an acting teacher, is told has no talent, persists anyway. An official tells his mother about RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art). At audition, Orton performs Smee and Captain Hook. Halliwell auditions -- something from Hamlet. He elicits groans. Only reason he gets in is because he looks old.

In 1951 (at school), Orton, his girlfriend, another couple, and Halliwell (whom Orton invites) go to a festival. Orton and his girlfriend make out, but she tells him she wants to take things gradually. He walks away and joins Halliwell in looking at fireworks.

In 1953, Orton (who'd said he'd move in with his girlfriend) and Halliwell look at flat together. They move in. Halliwell: "I'm a cultivated person. You'll find it rubs off." Halliwell and Orton kiss. Halliwell writes. Orton, discouraged, cuts up library books and takes pictures for wall. Later on, Orton gets up from bed and goes to typewriter.

Halliwell and Orton go to a publisher, who says his firm is conservative, their book ahead of its time. Orton pinches one of publisher's books. On way back, they pick up youth. Orton tells youth to kiss Halliwell, he does.

Peggy: "And so ten years passed."

In 1962, librarian tracks down Orton and Halliwell (comparing typewritten letter to defaced books). They are put in prison for 6 months. Orton exercises, lies to psychiatrist (saying he's the orphan, and that Halliwell's lying). Makes up wife and kid. Orton's on his own for the first time in ten years. Taste of freedom for Joe.

In 1962, after prison, they're now mean to each other. Orton has a radio play accepted by the BBC, which he did on his own. Halliwell hurt that Orton didn't even ask him for help with letter. Orton meets Peggy, she tells him try to think of another first name.

In 1964, it's a rehearsal of Entertaining Mrs. Sloane. Halliwell takes issue with direction, complaining that play is being turned into a cheap sex farce. Director confronts, Halliwell leaves. Director asks if it's Orton's play, he says yes. "Then what's all this 'we'?"

Peggy asks Joe for publicity. He makes up marriage, divorce, one kid. "I've dedicated it to you. What more do you want?" Halliwell gets wig. Orton pushes Halliwell into encounter with youth at gents' lavatory, which is interrupted by cops.

In 1967, Orton takes Peggy to awards presentation (instead of Halliwell). Afterwards he stops by gents' lavatory.

Orton and Halliwell go on holiday (somewhere in Middle East). Things go well at first. Orton talks about Beatles script to Brian Epstein, who takes issue with sex and drugs (kisses reality good-bye). Orton works, which angers Halliwell.

Orton and Halliwell are back in their apartment. Halliwell threatens suicide with pills. Phone rings, Orton bullies Halliwell into answering it. Orton's mom has passed away. Even at funeral, Orton makes his sister laugh. He takes mom's teeth, gives to actor for show (to actor's shock).

Halliwell says Orton won't look at other rooms. They argue again about Halliwell making Orton. "I'm not Eliza fucking Doolittle. I made myself." Halliwell -- Orton does everything better. "I was programmed to be a novelist or a playwright. But I'm not. And you are." Halliwell kills Orton with hammer, then takes pills.

Their ashes are intermingled. Peggy: Ken was the first wife.

My notes
-- very, very explicit, even ugly at times
-- moves fluidly between scenes. Linked by Peggy's voiceover. Sometimes voiceovers heard over flashback scenes.
-- all drama on personal level.
-- time fluid. lots of flashbacks. Apartment changes over time.
-- parallels: Orton/Halliwell, Lahr/Anthea (transcribes, prepares food).
-- identity changes. John becomes Joe. role reversal -- Halliwell starts out as more sophisticated, educated one, but it's Joe who experiences success.
-- Joe writes diaries, uses them as source material. Appropriates Halliwell's stories (dad's suicide in gas oven).

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