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Sir Terence Rattigan Biography

(1911–77), French without Tears, Flare Path, The Winslow Boy, The Browning Version, Adventure Story, Ross

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British dramatist, born in London, the son of a diplomat, educated at Trinity College, Oxford. From the age of 25 he was one of England's commercially most successful play-wrights. French without Tears (1936), a comedy set in a language school, was followed by plays both serious and humorous: among them, Flare Path (1942), a tribute to the RAF at war; The Winslow Boy (1946), about a father's battle to clear his naval-cadet son of allegations of theft; The Browning Version (1948), a sympathetic study of an unpopular schoolmaster; dramatic biographies of (respectively) Alexander the Great, T. E. Lawrence, and Lady Hamilton, Adventure Story (1949), Ross (1960), and A Bequest to the Nation (1970); The Deep Blue Sea (1952), whose protagonist is a judge's wife unhappily in love with a pilot; the Ruritanian frolic A Sleeping Prince (1953); Separate Tables (1954), two short plays set in a hotel, the better of which involves a phoney ‘major’ accused of indecency in a cinema; In Praise of Love (1973), in which a writer keeps from his wife the news that she is dying, by maintaining a pose of ill humour; and Cause Célèbre (1977), about Alma Rattenbury, who scandalized the nation when her youthful lover murdered her elderly husband. Rattigan said he aimed his work at an archetypal middle-brow theatregoer he called Aunt Edna, a claim that helped to damage his reputation in the 1950s and 1960s, the period of the Angry Young Men and the Kitchen Sink Drama. However, in later years it became increasingly recognized that, despite his traditionalism of form and accessibility of content, he had a distinctive and original voice, characterized by a sympathy for the victims both of their own overpowering feelings and of the disapproval of conventional society.

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