The author Ali Smith on L P Hartley, The Guardian 17th June 2011

L P Hartley1A combination of knowing and not-knowing is this novel’s driving force. It announced itself to Hartley (right) when he was in Venice in May 1952, working on a completely different project; he put it immediately aside and wrote The Go-Between quite fast, revising his draft as soon as October and November. It’s set at — or rather, framed by — the mid-point of the 20th century, “the most changeful half a century in history”, when Leo Colston, a man in his mid-60s, sits down in a drab realist 1950s room, the rain hammering at the window, to sort through some old papers. Almost straight away he comes upon a red cardboard box once used for his childhood Eton collars: in it are inconsequential odds and ends; some dried-up sea-urchins, some rusty magnets, “which had almost lost their magnetism”, and a diary. He picks each thing up in turn. “Something came and went between us: the intimate pleasure of recognition.” But about the “Diary for the year 1900”, with its Zodiac figures circling the announcement of this new “Golden Age”, the “glorious destiny of the 20th century”, he can remember nothing except a sense of baleful loss. He opens it: the combination lock, which he knows without knowing, is set to the letters of his own name. His own long-gone story breaks open on him all over again.

… and Gary Tooze, on the website HD SENSEI, said this of the Losey/Pinter collaboration…

L P Hartley2Writer Harold Pinter (left, with Alan bates) and director Joseph Losey (below, right) always hoped to make an adaptation of Proust’s A la Recherché du Temps Perdu. Their version of L P Hartley’s novel The Go-Between offers tantalising hints as to how the Proust film might have turned out.

An old man (Michael Redgrave) thinks back to a summer many years before when, as a young boy, he stayed with the aristocratic Maudsley family in their beautiful house in the Norfolk countryside. On the threshold of adolescence, intensely curious about sex, he became the go-between for Marian Maudsley (Julie Christie) and local farmer Ted Burgess (Alan Bates) as they conducted an affair behind the backs of the Maudsley family.

L P Hartley3Losey’s adaptation of L P Hartley’s novel is one of his more impressive later works. Together with screenwriter Harold Pinter, he creates another of his depictions of the destructive side of the English class system, as a love affair between the daughter of an affluent country family and a local farmer is tragically thwarted by prejudice and convention. Seen through the eyes of a young boy who acts as the instrument for the couple’s assignations, the affair becomes the nexus for all the repression and unspoken manipulations brewing under the polite façade of an apparently civilised society; battle becomes personal on the cricket field, and the chink of teacups hides vicious whispers and plotting. It occasionally becomes a bit too precious, especially with the inserts of the grown-up go-between visiting his past haunts, but it’s strong on atmosphere (the Norfolk locations are beautifully shot by Gerry Fisher), performance and moral nuance.

Writer Harold Pinter and director Joseph Losey, The Go-Between explores the mysterious adult world of sex and class as seen through the eyes of a young boy at the start of the turbulent twentieth century.

Not as dark as their 1963 film The Servant nor as self-consciously arty as 1967’s Accident, The Go Between tells the story of 12-year-old Leo Colston (Guard), a likeable, lively middle-class boy who is sent to spend the summer at the huge Norfolk estate of his aristocratic school friend Marcus (Gibson). It’s a formal, austere world of wealth and privilege, quite unlike his home life, and although he is initially out of his depth in the new environment, he soon develops a crush on Marcus’s beautiful older sister Marian (Christie).

and… Joseph Losey’s other life in film (from the BFI website)

In between dissecting the British class system in his collaborations with Pinter, Joseph Losey was busy shooting ads for Ford and Horlicks. While unpretentious about the results, Losey’s love of melodrama creeps into the campaigns, argues the BFI National Archive’s Dylan Cave.

L P Hartley4From the late 1950s, as Joseph Losey moved towards developing his British art house aesthetic, he also forged a secondary career in television and cinema advertising. Ephemeral and workaday, but absolutely professional, the adverts he directed present an alternate yet similarly skewed vision of Britain in that era.

Losey used commercials to tide him over financially between his intermittent features. His first job for the Rank Organisation, The Gypsy and the Gentleman, wrapped in the Autumn of 1957, and with no further features planned he signed with the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency. By the time The Gypsy opened in the spring of 1958, Losey was filming commercials for Kellogg’s, Lux Liquid and Rose’s Lime Juice, photographed by Freddie Francis before he started work on Room at the Top (1958).

This method of working – periodic feature films punctuated by spells at the agency — suited Losey for a number of years. Between production on Blind Date in March 1959 and The Criminal in December, he filmed high-profile campaigns for Horlicks, Ryvita and Addis domestic brushes. Their success led to non-exclusive contracts with other agencies, working with key producers like Joseph Janni and Leon Clore. With Clore he filmed First on the Road (1960), a 12-minute promo for the Ford Anglia saloon. Overlong, with characterless actors and ugly animation, this empty film is the most familiar of Losey’s adverts but, thankfully, the least typical.

Much better, and more fun, are the short black-and-white television adverts that spice up their mundane subject matter with disproportionate melodrama. A dour Fray Bentos housewife chooses what to feed her family as if the wrong decision might lead to marital breakdown. His ‘Horlicks guards against night starvation’ campaign (pictured above) has its miserable actors shout and snap at unsuspecting colleagues in waves of irritable fatigue. A highlight (though Losey dismissed it as “rather ordinary”) is 1962’s ‘Horlicks Rally’, in which an impatient mother’s erratic driving echoes the numerous car smashes in Losey’s features. The high drama is, of course, sedated with the calming effect of Horlicks malt drink.

Losey had few artistic pretensions about advertising, but he became more discerning in the 1960s as his international reputation developed. In 1966 he was one of the highest paid commercials directors in Britain. But when Accident went into production he left the advertising business, returning only for a one-off Babycham campaign in 1973 and a final French L’Oréal hairspray commercial in 1982.

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