Partner Kenneth Morgan, Michael Franklin
Harrow School, 5 High St, Harrow HA1 3HP, Regno Unito
University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 2JD, Regno Unito
Sandroyd School, Rushmore Park, Tollard Royal, Salisbury SP5 5QD, Regno Unito
Little Court, Virginia Water GU25 4LS, UK
29 Eaton Square, London SW1W, UK
Kensal Green Cemetery, Harrow Rd, London NW10 5NU, Regno Unito
St Paul Covent Garden, Bedford St, London WC2E 9ED, Regno Unito
Sir Terence Mervyn Rattigan, CBE (10 June 1911 – 30 November 1977) was a British dramatist. He was one of England's most popular mid twentieth century dramatists. His plays are typically set in an upper-middle-class background. He wrote The Winslow Boy (1946), The Browning Version (1948), The Deep Blue Sea (1952) and Separate Tables (1954), among many others.
A troubled homosexual, who saw himself as an outsider, his plays centred on issues of sexual frustration, failed relationships, and a world of repression and reticence. Rattigan had numerous lovers but no long-term partners, a possible exception being his "congenial companion ... and occasional friend" Michael Franklin. Franklin was Rattigan's lover throughout the second-half of his life. Cuthbert Worsley and William Chappell were two of Rattigan's longest-standing friends.
At Harrow, Rattigan developed crushes on other boys, and became even more emotionally ambivalent towards his father, who embarrassed him by turning up to visit him in a sharply cut suit, with a red carnation in his buttonhole, and his latest mistress on his arm. At 16, Rattigan, a tall and strikingly handsome youth, created a scandal at Harrow when he had a threesome with a local bookmaker and the racing correspondent of the Daily Express. His academic ability and promise at cricket apparently saved him from expulsion. Eyebrows were raised even higher when Terry took a group of Harrovians to the Café Royal to meet his friend, Douglas Byng, the most celebrated drag star in Britain. Frank Rattigan, who bitterly opposed his son’s intention to become a writer and insisted he should follow him into the Diplomatic Service, was shocked by the meeting with Byng.
St. Paul's Church, London
He was outraged still further when Terry, at Trinity College, Oxford, with a history scholarship, gave drag performances of his own as a bitchy female character he had invented, Lady Diana Coutigan (the surname is thought to be based on the expression ‘queer as a coot’). Bunny Roger knew Rattigan from his first day at Oxford until the end of Rattigan's life forty-five years later.
At the age of 25, Rattigan scored his first major success with his comedy, French Without Tears, which ran for more than 1,000 performances in London, with Rex Harrison in the lead.
In 1938, Rattigan embarked on an affair with a boyish-looking actor, Peter Osborn. The following year, when French Without Tears was filmed, he met the man who would be the love of his life, Kenneth Morgan, who played the juvenile lead, Babe Lake. Morgan was 20, but looked even younger, with large, bright eyes, wavy hair and dazzlingly white teeth. Rattigan was instantly attracted to him. But on the outbreak of war, Morgan disappeared into the Royal Navy, and the lovers were separated.
During the war, Rattigan had two West End hits. Then, in 1944, with a flat in Albany, in Piccadilly, he met the most influential of all his lovers, the American-born Sir Henry ‘Chips’ Channon, the 48-year-old millionaire Conservative MP, society host and friend of the Royal Family, who was 15 years his senior. Channon, who was about to be divorced from the Earl of Iveagh’s eldest daughter, Lady Honor Guinness, was besotted and began a long campaign of seduction, showering Rattigan with expensive gifts: cases of vintage champagne, giant pots of caviar and valuable jewellery. Rattigan was flattered but ill at ease. When his play, Love In Idleness, was published, it was dedicated to Chips, and two years later, Rattigan’s most acclaimed hit, The Winslow Boy, was dedicated to Chips’s son, Paul Channon, later a Conservative minister.
In 1946, Kenneth Morgan, invalided out of the Royal Navy, resumed his place in Terry’s life. For the next two and a half years, they lived together, although this was carefully concealed from the public. Rattingan had a disastrous closet affair with actor Kenneth Morgan. After a passionate and volatile relationship, Morgan walked away from the playwright’s luxurious champagne lifestyle, and left Rattigan for a younger man, actor Alec Ross. The new relationship did not worked out and, in a fit of depression on a March morning in 1949, Morgan took his own life. Morgan took an overdose, then gassed himself, and died on the way to hospital in 1949. Only nine years earlier he had won the film industry’s Best British Screen Newcomer Award. But his career had nose-dived and his life had taken a series of wrong turns.
Rattigan was devastated when he heard. He was still hoping Morgan would come back to him. As realisation dawned that this would never happen, the great playwright, who was in Liverpool at the time, sat in what seemed like a catatonic trance. Then, after many hours apparently lost in thought, he finally broke his silence on his lover’s suicide with words that amazed and chilled his friend, theatre director Peter Glenville. ‘My new play will open with the body discovered dead in front of the gas fire,’ he said. The play was The Deep Blue Sea. Years later, Glenville still remembered his sense of horror on hearing this. ‘His lover had killed himself, and he was going to put it in a play,’ he said. ‘I suppose it was his way of getting over it. He had to write it down and use it, but it did strike me as shockingly cold-blooded.’
Eighteen months after Morgan’s death, Rattigan met another handsome young man, Michael Franklin, who would remain in his life until the end. Twenty years Terry’s junior, he was known disparagingly as ‘The Midget’ by the playwright’s friends. On one occasion, possibly angered by Terry’s infidelity with a young ballet dancer, Adrian Brown, Franklin physically attacked his famous lover. On another, he hurled money back in his face.
It has been claimed his work is essentially autobiographical, containing coded references to his sexuality, which he kept secret from all but his closest friends. There is some truth in this, but it risks being crudely reductive; for example, the repeated claim that Rattigan originally wrote The Deep Blue Sea (1952) as a play about male lovers, turned at the last minute into a heterosexual play, is unfounded, though Rattigan said otherwise. On the other hand, for the Broadway staging of Separate Tables, he wrote an alternative version of the newspaper article in which Major Pollock's indiscretions are revealed to his fellow hotel guests; in this version, those whom the Major approached for sex were men rather than young women. However, Rattigan changed his mind about staging it, and the original version proceeded.
Rattigan was fascinated with the life and character of T. E. Lawrence. In 1960 he wrote a play called Ross, based on Lawrence's exploits. Preparations were made to film it, and Dirk Bogarde accepted the role. However, it did not proceed because the Rank Organisation withdrew its support, not wishing to offend David Lean and Sam Spiegel, who had started to film Lawrence of Arabia. Bogarde called Rank's decision "my bitterest disappointment". Also in 1960, a musical version of French Without Tears was staged as Joie de Vivre, with music by Robert Stolz of White Horse Inn fame. It starred Donald Sinden, lasted only four performances, and has never been revived. He was diagnosed as having leukaemia in 1962 and recovered two years later, but fell ill again in 1968. He disliked the so-called Swinging London of the 1960s and moved abroad, living in Bermuda, where he lived off the proceeds from lucrative screenplays including The V.I.P.s and The Yellow Rolls-Royce. For a time he was the highest-paid screenwriter in the world.
In 1964 Rattigan wrote to the playwright Joe Orton congratulating him on the outrageous comedy Entertaining Mr Sloane, to which Rattigan had escorted Vivien Leigh in its first week. He invested £3,000 in getting the play transferred to the West End. Although an unlikely champion of the risqué Orton, Rattigan recognised the younger man's talent and approved of what he considered a very well written piece of theatre. He also acknowledged in retrospect that, "in a way, I was not Orton's best sponsor. I'm a very unfashionable figure still, and I was then wildly unfashionable critically. My sponsorship rather put critics off, I think."
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