TERENCE RATTIGAN: The Man and His Work by Michael & Gillian Hodson Darlow

TERENCE RATTIGAN: The Man and His Work

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Have the late Terence Rattigan's plays (The Window Boy, The Browning Version, Separate Tables, etc.) come to be unfairly under-valued because of his position, in later years, as a semi-reluctant symbol of the Establishment and old-fashioned commercial craftsmanship? Darlow and Hodson believe so, and this critical biography attempts to rehabilitate Rattigan's serious reputation as a ""moral dramatist""--by emphasizing his ""liberal humanism"" and by relating the plays to Rattigan's guilt-and conflict-ridden homosexuality. The results are mixed. Rattigan's uneventful, fairly glamorous life--from Harrow and Oxford to West End success to a series of ""terminal"" illnesses--is well-researched and gracefully told, with candid yet tasteful treatment of his half-secret, often humiliating, sex life (""Why are there always so many young men and so few girls at Terence's parties?"" his mother continued to ask through the 1950s). And the authors do a convincing job of laying bare the covered-over homosexual situations and torments in such plays as The Deep Blue Sea--though they're also wise enough to note that the plays are probably better for the socially necessary disguisings. But, while Darlow and Hodson are on solid ground when casting Rattigan as an affirmative writer who approaches the ""difficulties of love and the inequality of passion"" with appeals for ""sympathy and tolerance,"" they never really manage to argue away Rattigan's contrivances and shallowness; they seem clearly out of their depth when disputing Kenneth Tynan's negative critiques; and their inflated claims for some of the plays--like In Praise of Love--compound a recurring tone of whiny fatuousness (""Why, then, has his achievement still not been generally recognized?""). As a final appraisal, then, this is less than reliable, and must be balanced against the tougher views of Tynan and others. As a compassionate biography and conscientious play-by-play study, however, it's solid, readable, and, on some counts, freshly informative.

Pub Date: Jan. 27th, 1980
Publisher: Quartet Books--dist. by Horizon