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The Servant is Harold Pinter's 1963 film adaptation of a 1948 novelette by Robin Maugham. 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 first of Pinter's three film collaborations with Losey, which also include Accident (1967) and The Go-Between (1971), The Servant is a tightly-constructed psychological dramatic film about the relationships among the four central characters examining issues relating to class, servitude and the ennui of the upper classes.
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.
Cast and characters
- Dirk Bogarde – Hugo Barrett
- Sarah Miles – Vera
- Wendy Craig – Susan Stewart
- James Fox – Tony
- Catherine Lacey – Lady Mounset
- Richard Vernon – Lord Mounset
- Ann Firbank – Society Woman
- Patrick Magee – Bishop
- Jill Melford – Younger Woman
- Alun Owen – Curate
- Harold Pinter – Society Man
- Dorothy Bromiley – Girl Outside Phone Box
- Johnny Dankworth – Jazz Bandleader
- Davy Graham – Himself
'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.'
Losey's other collaborations with Pinter, Accident and The Go-Between, share a resemblance to The Servant in that they offer the same savage indictment of the waning English class system, a theme which British film-makers had not previously explored.
Folk guitarist Davy Graham makes a brief cameo playing the song Rock Me Baby.
- Winner Best Cinematography - British Society of Cinematographers (Douglas Slocombe)
- Winner Best Cinematography - BAFTA (Douglas Slocombe)
- Winner Best Actor - BAFTA (Dirk Bogarde)
- Winner Most Promising Newcomer - BAFTA (James Fox)
- Nominee Best Picture - BAFTA (Joseph Losey, Norman Priggen)
- Nominee Best Actress - BAFTA (Sarah Miles)
- Nominee Best Screenplay - BAFTA (Harold Pinter)
- Nominee Most Promising Newcomer - BAFTA (Wendy Craig)
- Winner Best Foreign Director - Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists (Joseph Losey)
- Winner Best Screenplay - New York Film Critics Circle (Harold Pinter)
- Nominee Best Actor - New York Film Critics Circle (Dirk Bogarde)
- Nominee Best Director - New York Film Critics Circle (Joseph Losey)
- Nominee Golden Lion - Venice International Film Festival (Joseph Losey)
- Winner Best Dramatic Screenplay - Writers Guild of Great Britain (Harold Pinter)
- Alexander Walker, Hollywood, England, Stein and Day, 1974 p209
- Kinematograph Weekly vol 558 no 2928, 14 November 1963
- Nick James, "Joseph Losey & Harold Pinter: In Search of PoshLust Times", BFI, British Film Institute, (last updated) 27 June 2007, Web, 19 June 2009: "From Venetian decadence and British class war to Proustian time games, the films of Joseph Losey and Harold Pinter gave us a new, ambitious, high-culture kind of art film, says Nick James."
- Losey, Joseph. "The Servant." UK: Studio Canal, 2007
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- Billington, Michael. Harold Pinter. London: Faber and Faber, 2007. ISBN 978-0-571-23476-9 (13). Updated 2nd ed. of The Life and Work of Harold Pinter. 1996. London: Faber and Faber, 1997. ISBN 0-571-17103-6 (10). Print.
- Gale, Steven H. Sharp Cut: Harold Pinter's Screenplays and the Artistic Process. Lexington. Kentucky: The UP of Kentucky, 2003. ISBN 0-8131-2244-9 (10). ISBN 978-0-8131-2244-1 (13). Print.
- Gale, Steven H., ed. The Films of Harold Pinter. Albany: SUNY P, 2001. ISBN 0-7914-4932-7. ISBN 978-0-7914-4932-5. Print.
- Sargeant, Amy: The Servant: Palgrave Macmillan/BFI Modern Classics: 2011: ISBN 1-84457-382-6
- "Films by Harold Pinter: The Servant 1963" at HaroldPinter.org – The Official Website of the International Playwright Harold Pinter
- "Harold Pinter & Joseph Losey", by Jamie Andrews, Harold Pinter Archive Blog, British Library, 15 June 2009.
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