University of Oxford, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 3PA
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John Keith Winter (October 22, 1906 - February 17, 1983) was a playwright who wrote ''The Rats of Norway,'' first produced on Broadway in 1933.
Noël Coward's most important relationship, which began in the mid-1940s and lasted until his death, was with the South African stage and film actor Graham Payn. Coward's other relationships included the playwright Keith Winter, actors Louis Hayward and Alan Webb, his manager Jack Wilson and the composer Ned Rorem, who published details of their relationship in his diaries.
John Keith Winter was born Bangor, Gwynedd, Wales, and spent two and a half years as an assistant master at a preparatory school before going to Oxford in 1927. He wrote Other Man’s Saucer while in his last year of reading history there. There is, presumably, something of Winter in Shaw Latimer, who like his creator writes a first novel while at Oxford. The novelist realized that once Other Man’s Saucer was published, he would never again be allowed to resume his career as a schoolteacher. Instead, Winter turned to the stage and eventually, in the early 1940s, to Hollywood, where he had a brief career as a screenwriter. His best known film, however, is the British production of The Red Shoes (1948), the script for which Winter cowrote with Emeric Pressburger.
In the early 1930s he and Noël Coward were briefly lovers. The playwright served as the model for the character Andrew Jordan in Winter’s third novel, Impassioned Pygmies, 1936. The impassioned pygmies of the title are those who feed on the great, represented here by E. L. Marius, who has just taken up residence on the Mediterranean island of Miramar (and the author provides sufficient clues to identify it as Majorca). Most contemporary critics agree that E. L. Marius is based on D. H. Lawrence, just as it is very obvious that another visitor to the island, Andrew Jordan, is based on Noël Coward. Winter brilliantly recreates Coward-like dialogue. His frequent use of “gay” in describing Andrew Jordan— at one point it is said of him, “About as gay as a vulture emulating the morning activities of a lark”— cannot be coincidental. In London, The Times (April 6, 1936) commented, “As a satirical portrait of Noel Coward, Impassioned Pygmies is first-rate. As a caricature of Lawrence’s biographers it is catty but accurate. As a novel about real human beings it is less than fair.”
Winter also attracted the attention of Somerset Maugham, who invited him and the Waugh brothers to visit him at his French villa. Evelyn Waugh was snide in his comments at the time, but was forced to meet with Winter in Hollywood when he was assigned to turn Brideshead Revisited into a script. (Nothing came of the project.)
He wrote the screenplay of ''Above Suspicion'' (1943) and was involved in the screenplay of ''The Red Shoes'' (1948). His other stage works include ''The Shining Hour'' (1934), ''The Ringmaster'' (1935), ''Worse Things Happen at Sea'' (1935), ''Old Music'' (1937) and ''We at the Cross Roads'' (1939).
In late 1939, Rupert Barneby and Dwight Ripley lived at Padre Hotel, Hollywood, and they became part of the wartime colony of English expatriates that soon flourished along the southern California coast. At the beginning of WWII, Jean Connolly moved to Los Angeles and brought her close friend, Denham Fouts, a storied young American who was the lover then of Peter Watson, the wealthy publisher of Horizon, and was widely assumed to have been, before that, the lover of Prince Paul of Greece. These are the figures satirized by Christopher Isherwood in his novel Down There on a Visit, a novel in which the portrayal of Jean Connolly as Ruthie is so rude that it confirmed, said Rupert Barneby, Dwight Ripley's longstanding opinion that Isherwood was a snit. Soon the circle of expatriate friends around Dwight and Rupert had expanded to include several who found work, as did Isherwood, in the motion-picture industry. Especially close to Dwight were Keith Winter, a novelist, playwright, and Oxford classmate who worked as a screenwriter on Joan Crawford movies (he wrote the screenplay for Above Suspicion), and Richard Kitchin, a set artist who painted a Surrealist portrait of Dwight.
Keith Winter died on February 17, 1983, at the County Manor Nursing Home in Englewood, N.J. He was 76 years old and had lived in the Actors Fund retirement home in Englewood since 1978.
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