When asked in New York why this film was so successful, Mr Crisp said that at that time in England there were only two television channels. And whilst making a cup of tea a wife might ask her husband what was on. He'd say, 'A film about a homosexual' and then switch channels. Then she'd say, 'What's on the other side?' to which her husband would reply, 'The News'. To which she would sigh and respond, 'Well you'd better switch it back then'.
Although Quentin Crisp fully acknowledged the fact that it was The Naked Civil Servant that propelled him to some kind of curious stardom he also thought it was somewhat accidental. Surely in America with it's hundreds of TV channels such a film would have gone unnoticed.
But in truth, this is a great film that really sticks in the mind. Well made, it stars the wholly remarkable John Hurt and his interpretation of Mr Crisp is memorable, touching, funny and almost accurate. Quentin described him as 'My representative on Earth'.
Hurt is utterly magnetic and, like all great actors, makes you believe in his role without question. It was with great satisfaction that I learned he is currently playing Mr Crisp again, so many decades later, in a film based around Quentin's later years.
The Naked Civil Servant stands up well as classic piece of British filmmaking. I'm sure it was considered shocking in it's day and terribly revealing too. Now it's a valuable lesson in the attitudes of the time. It cannot and does not try to represent the whole book but the adaptation is really very good. At key moments we are guided by Quentin's wonderfully charming narration, (although it must be said that John Hurt's vocal talents far exceeded that of the writer).
The fact that this film has not drowned in the world of today (with it's thousands of television channels and a million other diversions) is testimony to its quality and long lasting appeal. In this respect Mr Crisp remains happily incorrect.