The Servant (1963 film)

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The Servant
The Servant (film).jpg
Directed byJoseph Losey
Produced byJoseph Losey
Norman Priggen
Written byRobin Maugham (novel)
Harold Pinter (screenplay)
StarringDirk Bogarde
Sarah Miles
James Fox
Wendy Craig
Music byJohn Dankworth
CinematographyDouglas Slocombe
Edited byReginald Mills
Distributed byLandau Releasing Organisation
Elstree Distributors Limited
Release date
14 November 1963
Running time
112 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

The Servant is Harold Pinter's 1963 film adaptation of a 1948 novella by Robin Maugham. A British production directed by Joseph Losey, it stars Dirk Bogarde, Sarah Miles, Wendy Craig and James Fox. It opened at London's Warner Theatre on 14 November 1963.[2]

The first of Pinter's three film collaborations with Losey, which also include Accident (1967) and The Go-Between (1971), The Servant is a tightly constructed psychological dramatic film about the relationships among the four central characters examining issues relating to social class, servitude, and the ennui of the upper classes.[3]


Tony (James Fox) a wealthy young Londoner, hires Hugo Barrett (Dirk Bogarde) as his manservant. Initially, Barrett appears to take easily to his new job, and he and Tony form a quiet bond, retaining their social roles. Relationships begin shifting, however, and they change with the introduction of Susan (Wendy Craig), Tony's girlfriend, who seems to be suspicious of Barrett and to loathe all he represents.

Barrett brings Vera (Sarah Miles) whom he presents as his sister into Tony's household as a maidservant, but it emerges that Vera is actually Barrett's lover. Through Barrett's and Vera's games and machinations, they reverse roles with Tony and Susan; Tony becomes more and more dissipated, sinking further into what he perceives as their level, as the "master" and the "servant" exchange roles. In the final scene, Tony has become wholly dependent on Barrett, and Susan is exiled permanently from the house.

Cast and characters[edit]

Losey's adaptation[edit]

"It was Losey who first showed Robin Maugham's novella The Servant to Bogarde in 1954. Originally separately commissioned by director Michael Anderson, Pinter stripped it of its first-person narrator, its yellow book snobbery, and the arguably anti-Semitic characterisation of Barrett – oiliness, heavy lids – replacing them with an economical language that implied rather than stated the slippage of power relations away from Tony towards Barrett."[3]

Losey's other collaborations with Pinter, Accident and The Go-Between, share a resemblance to The Servant in that these offer the same savage indictment of the waning English class system,[4] a theme which British film-makers previously had not explored.


The soundtrack by John Dankworth includes the song "All Gone", sung by Cleo Laine, used repeatedly in the film.

Folk guitarist Davy Graham makes a brief cameo playing the song Rock Me Baby.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Alexander Walker, Hollywood, England, Stein and Day, 1974 p209
  2. ^ Kinematograph Weekly vol 558 no 2928, 14 November 1963
  3. ^ a b Nick James, "Joseph Losey & Harold Pinter: In Search of PoshLust Times", BFI, British Film Institute, (last updated) 27 June 2007, Web, 19 June 2009: "From Venetian decadence and British class war to Proustian time games, the films of Joseph Losey and Harold Pinter gave us a new, ambitious, high-culture kind of art film, says Nick James."
  4. ^ Losey, Joseph. "The Servant." UK: Studio Canal, 2007

Further reading[edit]

  • Billington, Michael. Harold Pinter. London: Faber and Faber, 2007. ISBN 978-0-571-23476-9 (13). Updated 2nd ed. of The Life and Work of Harold Pinter. 1996. London: Faber and Faber, 1997. ISBN 0-571-17103-6 (10). Print.
  • Gale, Steven H. Sharp Cut: Harold Pinter's Screenplays and the Artistic Process. Lexington. Kentucky: The UP of Kentucky, 2003. ISBN 0-8131-2244-9 (10). ISBN 978-0-8131-2244-1 (13). Print.
  • Gale, Steven H., ed. The Films of Harold Pinter. Albany: SUNY P, 2001. ISBN 0-7914-4932-7. ISBN 978-0-7914-4932-5. Print.
  • Sargeant, Amy: The Servant: Palgrave Macmillan/BFI Modern Classics: 2011: ISBN 1-84457-382-6
  • Weedman, Christopher (2019). "A Dark Exilic Vision of 1960s Britain: Gothic Horror and Film Noir Pervading Losey and Pinter's The Servant." JCMS: Journal of Cinema and Media Studies 58.3, pp. 93-117.

External links[edit]