Prick Up Your Ears

Synopsis: This film is the story of the spectacular life and violent death of British playwright Joe Orton. In his teens, Orton is befriended by the older, more reserved Kenneth Halliwell, and while the two begin a relationship, it's fairly obvious that it's not all about sex. Orton loves the dangers of bath-houses and liaisons in public restrooms; Halliwell, not as charming or attractive as Orton, doesn't fare so well in those environs. While both long to become writers, it is Orton who achieves fame - his plays "Entertaining Mr. Sloane" and "Loot" become huge hits in London of the sixties, and he's even commissioned to write a screenplay for the Beatles. But Orton's success takes him farther from Halliwell, whose response ended both his life and the life of the up-and-coming playwright.
Director(s): Stephen Frears
Production: Curzon Film Distributors
  Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 5 wins & 7 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
105 min

Mr. Orton?

Mr. Halliwell?


Dear, oh, dear. Somebody here

has been playing silly buggers.

You look ill.

They have some brandy in the kitchen.

I won't keep you a moment.

- I can't find his diaries.

- You can't find them?

- Its 20 years ago.

- But they'd be so valuable.

Yes, I don't like to think

what they'd be worth.

For a biographer.

Tess is so disorganized.

- Oh, dear.

- Don't worry.

I can't stand those things.

Every little word.

One can't possibly be natural.

- Is it on?

- Yes.

I knew nothing at all about him

the first time he walked in.

When was that? My God, 1964.

He had considerable confidence and charm.

It was his first play, a radio thing.

I thought it was derivative.

I told him so. He didn't mind.

I thought it was derivative.

I told him so. He didn't mind.

Not Joe.

"I'll try and write you a better one," he said.

I said, "Well, that would be gorgeous."

As he was leaving...

he said, "Next time, can I bring my friend?"

And I thought, does he mean "friend"?

Then I thought, yes, he does mean "friend."

Which was quite bold in those days.

It was the Dark Ages. Men and men.

And they could still put you in prison for it.

And they did, dear.

Bollock naked?

No, keep your socks on.

London was still quite exciting then.

Remember that?

No, you wouldnt.

- This is when?

- 1967.

- You're in good shape.

- Its the weights.

When I die, I want people to say:

"He was the most perfectly developed

playwright of his day."

Joe was having a wonderful time.

His second play, Loot, was a smash hit.

- So he was making lots of money?

- Oh, yes, dear.

Offers to do this and write that.

And he had six months to live.

Is that it?

Is that my present?

- It is terrible, darling.

- It was $14.

I thought you said splash out.

Cheap clothes suit me. They always have.

Its because Im from the gutter.

- A contract from New Zealand.

- New Zealand?

I know, but we won't think about it, dear.

Am I right in thinking we're still

interested in writing the Beatles script?

Oh, yes.

Why don't I call Brian now

and set up a meeting?


Is it "Epstein"...

or "Epstine"?

Better wait.

Americans are so sensitive

about their names.

He's not American, is he?

Well, he moves in that world.

We'll see each other later?

I hope people come.

They will. I put out a three-line whip.

- Thank you.

- How is he?

He's fine.


Its 5:

Its 5:

Its only $14. Peggy hates it.

- That's where you've been.

- She likes you.

Peggy's one of your few fans.

- Any calls?

- Ive been worried stiff.

Why? It doesn't start till 9:00.

The whole point about irrational behavior

is that it is irrational.

I don't worry about any thing. I just worry.

- Stop that.

- And you stop being such a bilious queen.

Ive to be there by 8:00

to check the arrangements.

- Im frightened nobody will come.

- They'll come.

"And what sort of day

have you had, Kenneth?"

Well, not unproductive, Joe, actually.

I caught up on a big backlog of dusting.

Then I went down the road

to replenish our stock of corn flakes.

When I returned, I rinsed a selection

of your soiled underclothes...

by which time it was 4:00,

the hour of your scheduled return.

When you failed to come, I redeemed

the shining hour by cutting my toenails.

What did you expect me to do?

Shag the Dimplex?

You can still be quite funny.


Have you been reading my diary?

- No.

- Why not?

I would.

- They lived in Islington.

- Isn't that quite fashionable?

Not then, dear.

An apartment?

Hardly. It was a cupboard.

All right?


- Can we go past the theater?

- Oh, no, I knew you'd say that. I knew.

This is supposed to be my night!

Actually, I just want to get out

of this f***ing room.

- Id better have my Valium now.

- Give us a couple.

Name in the paper again last night.

Mrs. Sugden says

you're halfway to being a household word.

Kenneth looks smart.

Don't look at me. Im not washed.

Going out to supper.

Candle-lit, probably.

Its one function after another.

They've got the world at their feet.

When I was hanging them,

I kept thinking Schwitters.


Not entirely. You see, when I first started...

- it would be in a cellar.

- Shut up. This is our be-kind-to-Kenny day.

- The avalanche begins.

- We came together.

Always the best way.

- Hello.

- Well, Kenneth, your big day.

- Joe, how are you?

- Where are these pictures?

- Nice of you to come.

- We girls must stick together.

I had a friend once in soft furnishings.

The number of times

I trailed around the ideal Home Exhibition...

Ive had an invitation

to the Lord Mayor of London.

Its a banquet for those

eminent in the arts and sciences.

Sounds exciting.

Its because Ive sold the film rights to Loot.

Im as rich as them,

so Im invited to their rubbishy dinner.

Joe, I believe they give you

some excellent turtle soup.

Who's paying for all this?

Success! Our first sale.

Peggy's bought my Cat Screen.

And Ive almost sold another.

- You've no need to.

- I like it.

And you've no need to, either.

You don't owe him anything.

Not anymore.

You must leave him, Joe. You've got to.

I can't.

No, I couldn't.

And was he going to leave him?

No shortage of offers.

I don't know.

Could he have left him?

You're married. How can you tell?

What for? Sex?

I suppose that's where they learnt it.


- And what do you do?

- Im the artist.

Oh, really?

Well, they're very unusual.

Seems to be going well.

Have we sold any more?

No, but Im getting lots of enthusiasm.

- Isnt that Joe Orton?

- Yes.

I loved Loot!

The title was mine, actually.

I gave him all his titles.

Im his personal assistant.


I don't care for these at all.

And what does that entail?

It entails washing his underwear.

It entails taking his jumpers to Sketchley's.

It entails poaching his f***ing eggs.

And it entails reading his manuscripts...

only to find

everything Ive thought or said is included.

That must be very rewarding.

If you're referring to the occasional bout

of mutual masturbation...

no, it is not rewarding at all!

I really do love my Screen.


"How do you justify your existence?"

"Im Joe Orton's friend."

As if it's a profession.

Well, it's not a profession.

Its a f***ing full-time job.

Its not a profession.

Was this customary?

Oh, yes. According to the diary,

practically a daily occurrence.

But you lost his diary.


No, I haven't seen him.

I thought he left with you.

No, Kenneth, of course I wanted it.

I wouldn't have bought it if I hadn't.

I shall have it here, in my office.

Yes, if he rings, Ill tell him.


Then what?

Then he did the same for me.

Shall we eat? Im starving.

I write it all down, all the sex.

Its all in my diaries.

How did he know you were here?

You do, don't you?

In that state.

You know everything.


Im sorry.

I brought the melon.

Any calls?

Im sorry.


You found us.

I just got here myself.

This is my wife, Anthea. Ms. Ramsay.

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Alan Bennett

Alan Bennett (born 9 May 1934) is an English playwright, screenwriter, actor and author. He was born in Leeds and attended Oxford University where he studied history and performed with the Oxford Revue. He stayed to teach and research medieval history at the university for several years. His collaboration as writer and performer with Dudley Moore, Jonathan Miller and Peter Cook in the satirical revue Beyond the Fringe at the 1960 Edinburgh Festival brought him instant fame. He gave up academia, and turned to writing full-time, his first stage play Forty Years On being produced in 1968. His work includes The Madness of George III and its film adaptation, the series of monologues Talking Heads, play and subsequent film of The History Boys, and popular audio books, including his readings of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Winnie-the-Pooh. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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