Sir Terence Rattigan



  • (1911 - 77) British playwright, whose well-structured playsenjoyed enormous success in the years before and after World War II.At one time three of his works were running simultaneously in theWest End. Rattigan was knighted in 1971, the first dramatist to beso honoured since the war.

    When Rattigan was a young man his father, a wealthy diplomat,agreed to finance his writing for a maximum of two years. After 23months, Rattigan produced his first comedy, French Without Tears(1936), about a group of young Englishmen learning French in a crammer.It ran for 1049 performances at the Criterion Theatre, providingRattigan with perhaps the greatest success ever enjoyed by a West End newcomer.Rattigan was emotionally devastated by the play's opening night. Whenthe audience rose to its feet with cries of "Author, author"he vanished and was found looking ill and supporting himself againsta back wall. When Rattigan finally stepped forward to acknowledgethe applause, the curtain landed heavily upon his head.

    His second success, After the Dance, dealt with thedanger of stifled passion; it was revived by the BBC in 1993. Hisgreat wartime successes included a drama inspired by his days in theRAF, Flare Path (1942), and While The Sun Shines (1943),which ran for 1154 performances. The Winslow Boy (1946), whichwon many awards, told the true story of a father's campaign to provehis son innocent of an act of petty theft. Later outstanding works included The Browning Version (1948), The Deep Blue Sea (1952), a moving story about adultery and suicide (written after the suicideof his lover Kenneth Morgan), Separate Tables (1955),and Ross (1960) in which Sir Alec Guinness starred asT. E. Lawrence.

    Rattigan lived an extravagant life, driving a Rolls-Roycewith a personalized number plate and gambling away the £25,000he made from French Without Tears in three weeks. His lifestyleand attitudes were diametrically opposed to those of the AngryYoung Men of the mid 1950s, who tended to regard his work asthe epitome of everything they disliked in contemporary drama.Rattigan stated publicly that he hated Osborne's Look Back inAnger (1956) and as the new kitchen sink realism becamepopular his reputation waned, along with that of Noël Cowardand others of his generation. "We were told we were old-fashioned,effete, and corrupt," he said. More recently, however, there hasbeen a resurgence of interest in Rattigan's work. This trend began with arevival of The Deep blue Sea at the Almeida Theatre in 1993,the first major production since its premiere over 40 years earlier.Successful revivals of The Winslow Boy, Separate Tables,and other lesser known works have followed. see also Aunt Edna.