Jane Arden (director)
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|Born||Norah Patricia Morris
29 October 1927
Pontypool, Gwent, Wales, United Kingdom
|Died||20 December 1982
North Yorkshire, England, United Kingdom
|Alma mater||Royal Academy of Dramatic Art|
|Occupation||Actress, film director, playwright, poet, screenwriter and songwriter|
|Children||Sebastian and Dominic|
Early life, education and early career
Arden appeared in a television production of Romeo and Juliet in the late 1940s, and then starred in two British crime films: Black Memory (1947) directed by Oswald Mitchell – which provided South African-born actor Sid James with his first screen credit (billed as Sydney James) – and Richard M. Grey's A Gunman Has Escaped (1948). There are copies of both films in the BFI National Archive but the copy of A Gunman Has Escaped is incomplete.
Writing and theatre
In the 1950s, after her first spell in the United States[clarification needed] and following marriage (to the director Philip Saville) and children, Arden concentrated on writing for the stage and for television.
Her stage play Conscience and Desire, and Dear Liz (1954) attracted interest, and her comedy television drama Curtains For Harry (1955), starring Bobby Howes and Sydney Tafler, was transmitted on 20 October 1955 by the newly established ITV network. The latter featured the Carry On actress Joan Sims. Arden's co-writer on this piece was the American Richard Lester, who was then working as a television director.
Arden worked with some leading figures of British theatre and cinema in the late 1950s.
In 1958, her play The Party, an intense family drama set in Kilburn, was directed at London's New Theatre by Charles Laughton. It turned out to be Laughton's last appearance on the London stage, while it provided Albert Finney with his first theatre role.
Feminism, film and radical theatre
Arden's work became increasingly radical following her growing interest and involvement in feminism and the anti-psychiatry movement of the 1960s. This is particularly evident from 1965 onwards, starting with the television drama The Logic Game, which she wrote and starred in. The Logic Game, which was directed by Saville, also starred the British actor David de Keyser who worked alongside Arden again in the film Separation (1967). Arden, again, wrote the screenplay and the film was directed by her creative partner Jack Bond (born 1937). Separation, which was photographed in atmospheric black and white by Aubrey Dewar, also featured music by the chart-topping British group Procol Harum.
Arden and Bond had previously worked on the documentary film Dalí in New York (1966), which mainly consists of the surrealist artist Salvador Dalí and Arden walking the streets of New York City discussing Dalí's work. This film was resurrected and shown at the 2007 Tate Gallery Dalí exhibition.
Arden's television work in the mid-1960s included appearances in Saville's Exit 19, The Interior Decorator by Jack Russell and the satirical programme That Was the Week That Was, hosted by David Frost.
Arden's work in experimental theatre in the late 1960s and the 1970s coincided with her return to cinema as an actor, writer and director (or co-director).
The play Vagina Rex and the Gas Oven (1969), starring Victor Spinetti, and Sheila Allen, played to packed houses for six weeks at London's Arts Lab. It was described by Arthur Marwick, in his book The Sixties as "perhaps the most important single production" at the venue during that period. Also around this time Arden wrote the drama The Illusionist.
In 1970, Arden formed the radical feminist theatre group Holocaust and then wrote the play The Holocaust. The play would later be adapted for the screen as The Other Side of the Underneath (1972). Arden directed the film and appeared in it uncredited; screenings at film festivals, including the 1972 London Film Festival, caused a considerable stir. The film depicts a woman's mental breakdown and rebirth in scenes at times violent and highly shocking; the writer and critic George Melly described it as "a most illuminating season in Hell", while the BBC Radio journalist David Will declared the film to be "a major breakthrough for the British cinema".[unreliable source?]
Throughout her life Arden's interest in other cultures and belief systems increasingly took the form of a personal spiritual quest.
Following The Other Side of the Underneath, there were two further collaborations with Jack Bond in the 1970s: Vibration (1974), described by Geoff Brown and Robert Murphy in their book Film Directors in Britain and Ireland (British Film Institute 2006) as "an exercise in meditation utilising experimental film and video techniques", and the futuristic Anti-Clock (1979), which featured Arden's songs on the soundtrack and starred Sebastian Saville. The latter opened the 1979 London Film Festival.
In 1978, Arden published the book You Don't Know What You Want, Do You?, and supported its publication with public readings and discussions, such as that at The King's Head Theatre in London on 1 October 1978. Although loosely defined as poetry the book is also a radical social and psychological manifesto which has been compared with R.D. Laing's Knots. By this time, Arden had moved on from feminism to a view that all people needed to be set free from the tyranny of rationality.
She had two sons, Sebastian and Dominic. Sebastian runs Release the British centre of expertise on drugs, the law and human rights. Dominic is the chief executive officer of 3DD Entertainment, a British film distribution and production company.
Death and legacy
Arden took her own life at Hindlethwaite Hall in Coverdale, Yorkshire on 20 December 1982. She was initially buried in Darlington West Cemetery, but on 14 February 2011, her remains were exhumed and moved by her family to Highgate Cemetery in London.
In July 2008, Arden was one of the topics discussed in the Conference of 1970s British Culture and Society held at the University of Portsmouth.
In 2009, the British Film Institute restored the three major feature films Arden made with her creative associate Jack Bond: Separation (1967), The Other Side of the Underneath (1972) and Anti-Clock (1979). The films became available on DVD and Blu-ray in July 2009. Bond was involved in the restoration and reissue processes, and the release of the films was accompanied by exhibition of the restored features at the National Film Theatre and The Cube Microplex in Bristol. Her books – poetry and plays – remain out of print.
- 1947 Romeo and Juliet (BBC Television) (actor)
- 1947 Black Memory (film) (actor)
- 1948 A Gunman Has Escaped (film) (actor)
- 1954 Conscience and Desire, and Dear Liz (theatre) (playwright)
- 1955 Curtains For Harry (ITV) (co-writer)
- 1958 The Party (theatre) (playwright)
- 1959 The Thug (ITV) (writer)
- 1964 Huis Clos (BBC Television) (actor)
- 1965 The Logic Game (BBC Television) (writer, actor)
- 1965 The Interior Decorator (actor)
- 1966 Exit 19 (a commentator)
- 1966 Dalí in New York (BBC Television) (interviewer)
- 1968 Separation (film) (writer, actor)
- 1968 The Illusionist (writer)
- 1969 Vagina Rex and the Gas Oven (theatre) (writer)
- 1971 A New Communion for Freaks, Prophets and Witches (aka Holocaust) (theatre) (playwright)
- 1972 The Other Side of the Underneath (1972 film) (writer, uncredited actor, director)
- 1974 Vibration (film) (writer, co-director)
- 1978 You Don't Know What You Want, Do You? (poetry) (writer)
- 1979 Anti-Clock (film) (writer, composer, co-director)
- Film Directors in Britain and Ireland (BFI 2006) edited by Robert Murphy
- Unknown Pleasures: Vertigo Magazine online August 2007 
- Arden and Dalí Loiter in the Streets: Vertigo Magazine online 
- Jane Arden, Jethro Tull and 1973: Vertigo Magazine online August 2008