He would become a success at just 25 years old with a light farce- French Without Tears (1936), but Terence Rattigan wanted to be considered a serious writer. His next piece was a satirical drama After the Dance (1939), attacking the cynical generation of Bright Young Things for their failure to stop another war. Success brought more success, & among his very well received plays: The Winslow Boy, The Browning Version, The Deep Blue Sea, & Separate Tables, were all made into even more popular films. He served as the writer of the screenplays of most of his plays & by the 1960s, he was Hollywood’s best paid writer.
He was nominated for 2 Oscars. But just as his works struck out at the older generation, in 1956 John Osborne's Look Back in Anger knocked cold the character of the Rattigan generation: the collected, composed, chastened, creaky characters that held back emotions. Rattigan fell deeply out of favor with the critics who had championed him, just as he was hitting his best notes.
In 1957 he wrote his first play that directly addressed his homosexuality, Variation on a Theme, & it was not well received. Rattigan learned to keep his own relationships well hidden, perhaps to the point of being emotionally cut off even from his partners.
Rattigan enjoyed plenty of lovers but no long-term partners. His work is essentially autobiographical, containing coded references to his sexuality, which he kept secret from all but his closest friends.
Rattigan alternated between comedies & dramas, all works of understated emotions, & craftsmanship. When seemingly overnight his sort of theatre fell into disfavor, Rattigan responded with bitterness. His churlish remarks only confirmed that he had no sympathy or understanding of the new, more modern world. Yet, his later plays: Ross, Man & Boy, In Praise of Love, & Cause Célèbre, showed no decline in his considerable talent.
No longer feeling at home in the swinging, mod London of the 1960s, Rattigan made his home in Bermuda, where he continued to write. He lived off the proceeds from lucrative screenplays including The V.I.P.s & The Yellow Rolls-Royce.
He was diagnosed as having leukemia in 1962 but recovered 2 years later, but fell ill again in 1968. Rattigan died of leukemia in his beloved Bermuda in 1977, at 66 years of age.
Rattigan was knighted in1971 for services to the theatre, being only the 4th playwright to be knighted in the 20th century (after William Gilbert in 1907, Arthur Wing Pinero in 1909 & Noël Coward in 1970).
Rattigan’s plays have enjoyed a renaissance in the 21st century. I love his work & I hold him as one of the last century's finest playwrights, an expert elicitor of emotion, & an anatomist of human emotional pain. A string of successful stage revivals & films in the past decade include a West End production of The Winslow Boy, Man & Boy on Broadway with Frank Langella, In Praise of Love & Separate Tables at the Royal Shakespere, A Bequest to the Nation, starring Janet McTeer & Kenneth Branagh, After The Dance at London's Royal National Theatre, & Cause Célèbre at The Old Vic last season.
In theatres right now & getting terrific reviews, is a new film of The Deep Blue Sea starring Rachel Weisz.
I highly recommend the 1958 film version of Separate Tables with Deborah Kerr, Rita Hayworth, Windy Hiller, winner of the best Supporting Actress for the role, Burt Lancaster & David Niven, who won the Oscar for Best Actor. I also very much enjoyed 2000’s The Winslow Boy with Jeremy Northam, & the 1994 film version of The Browning Version with Albert Finney.