Ronald Harwood (1934-2020) R I P

The Daily Telegraph has an obituary of Ronald Harwood, noted primarily as a writer of screenplays based on adaptations of novels or plays.  These adaptations include such well-received films as the Oscar-winning The Pianist (2003), One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (1971) and his own screen adaptation of his stage play The Dresser (1980 stage, 1983 screen). But he also wrote several novels as well as a biography of Donald Wolfit whom he met while a student at RADA and who gave him his first break in the theatre by hiring him to perform various tasks in his touring stage company.

It is not well known today but is mentioned by the Telegraph that Harwood’s first success as a playwright had a Waugh connection:

It was at the Royal Exchange [Manchester] that he enjoyed his first major success in the theatre, adapting Evelyn Waugh’s The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold (1977), before his play The Dresser, originally starring Freddie Jones as “Sir”, and Courtenay as Norman, ensured that the theatre profession far beyond Manchester took him seriously.

As mentioned in the obituary in The Times, after opening in Manchester, Pinfold moved to London. That production was performed at The Roundhouse with Michael Hordern playing Pinfold to high acclaim.  It’s to be regretted that Harwood never adapted Pinfold for the screen or TV. It should be the ideal length and content for such a production and the dialogue is already at hand in the stage adaptation. According to Wikipedia, there was a radio adaptation on the BBC in 1960 during Waugh’s lifetime but he didn’t listen in. This was by Michael Bakewell and was reportedly well received.


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