I have loved Terence Rattigan ever since I read "The Browning Version" and was impressed by his ability to dramatize the world of hurt that human beings can manage to live with. As a playwright, Rattigan had few peers in recognition and financial success. As this biography confirms, he was both the beneficiary and the victim of his times. He was the witty, glittering celebrity writer, friends with all the famous British theatrical luminaries, writing screenplays for the Burtons and making tons of money-- spending it left and right, a good deal of it on his parents and friends. Of course he was a deeply closeted gay man who could barely flirt with his forbidden world or risk everything. It was left to some of the rest of us to rip the hinges off the closet door. Thanks, Terry, for leaving us something to be passionate about. Wansell makes the case that Terence Rattigan suffered a great deal from less and less criticial esteem, leading to depression and ill health. But for every failure he had, there was a new screenplay or a revival or even a new play that somebody wanted from Rattigan. Who in life gets even one tiny iota of such plums?!
The British theatre changed about 1956 with onslaught of the Angry Young men, championed by Kenneth Tynan and other kitchen-sink lovers (who were also virulently homophobic). These people "suspected" that Rattigan and that crowd were "pansies" and would hardly have thought the "pansies" courageous for coming out of the closet. Of course the kitchen-sink dramas have had their day as well. Lower-class whiners are not that delightful for long!
The biographer here is lucid, understands the pressures on Rattigan, and goes a long way to rescue and revive his reputation. He was hardly a frivolous writer, and his life is very interestingly displayed in this book.