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7.4/10
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29 user 31 critic

Prick Up Your Ears (1987)

R | | Biography, Drama | 8 May 1987 (USA)
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 ... See full summary »

Director:

Stephen Frears

Writers:

John Lahr (based on the biography by), Alan Bennett (screenplay)

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Gary Oldman Through the Years

Take a look back at Gary Oldman's movie career in photos.

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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 5 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Gary Oldman ... Joe Orton
Alfred Molina ... Kenneth Halliwell
Vanessa Redgrave ... Peggy Ramsay
Wallace Shawn ... John Lahr
Lindsay Duncan ... Anthea Lahr
Julie Walters ... Elsie Orton
James Grant James Grant ... William Orton
Frances Barber ... Leonie Orton
Janet Dale Janet Dale ... Mrs Sugden
Dave Atkins Dave Atkins ... Mr Sugden
Margaret Tyzack ... Madame Lambert
Eric Richard ... Education Officer
William Job William Job ... RADA Chairman
Rosalind Knight Rosalind Knight ... RADA Judge
Angus MacKay Angus MacKay ... RADA Judge
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Storyline

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. Written by Gary Dickerson <[email protected]>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

They shared everything - except success.

Genres:

Biography | Drama

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

8 May 1987 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Das stürmische Leben des Joe Orton See more »

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Box Office

Gross USA:

$1,654,743
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Wallace Shawn, who plays John Lahr, is (in addition to being an actor) an acclaimed playwright and screenwriter. Until her 1991 death, his play agent was Peggy Ramsay, who was also Joe Orton's agent and who appears in this film as the character played by Vanessa Redgrave. See more »

Goofs

When Joe's agent first meets him in 1964, she asks him how he's been supporting himself. He tells her he's on public assistance, getting £3.10 per week. But new pence weren't introduced until 1971. See more »

Quotes

[Halliwell puts his hand on Orton's leg. Orton brushes it off]
Joe Orton: No. Have a wank.
Kenneth Halliwell: Have a wank? Have a wank? I can't just have a wank. I need three days' notice to have a wank. You can just stand there and do it. Me, it's like organizing D-Day. Forces have to be assembled, magazines bought, the past dredged for some suitably unsavoury episode, the dog-eared thought of which can still produce a faint flicker of desire! Have a wank, it'd be easier to raise the Titanic.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Family Guy: Prick Up Your Ears (2006) See more »

Soundtracks

Recognition Fanfare
(uncredited)
Music by Ernest Bullock
See more »

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User Reviews

 
"What do you expect? Many of them are Australians"
29 June 2004 | by KrustallosSee all my reviews

Although in some ways more theatrical/televisual than cinematic, this is one of the best British films of the 80's, and is probably Alan Bennett's most successful screenplay. Bennett and Orton have a number of things in common - a love of "found" dialogue (here mainly given to Orton's landlady) - theatrical success in the 60's (Bennett in "Beyond the Fringe") - and of course their sexuality.

The film is quite interesting in what it leaves out - anyone who has read Orton's diaries will know that "the latter part" is rather underplayed here. Also sadly missed is "Mrs Edna Welthorpe" an alter ego of Joe's who would write to newspapers denouncing his plays as filth - a rather cunning way of securing free advertising. A very interesting telephone conversation with Brian Epstein "...one of the boys is happily married..." plays with what we now know about Epstein and Lennon in a beautifully understated way.

Orton and Halliwell's relationship is counterpointed in the film by "John Lahr"'s own marriage (Wallace Shawn is great here too, as always) as Lahr's researching of his biography acts as a framing device for Orton's story. As others have commented, the dynamic of the central relationship rings horribly true to anyone who has been in a halfway similar situation.

It's interesting to speculate on what would have become of Orton had he lived. Time has dimmed the shock value of his plays to the point where they will probably never have the same effect, and despite various rumours (the Sex Pistols?) no-one has picked up the Beatles script, probably for the same reason. Live fast, die young, leave a good looking corpse? Perhaps.


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