Dennis Potter

About Dennis Potter

Who is it?: Writer, Producer, Director
Birth Day: May 17, 1935
Birth Place:  Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, England, United Kingdom
Occupation: Television playwright, director, novelist, author, screenwriter, journalist
Period: 1960–1994
Genre: Drama
Notable works: Pennies from Heaven (1978) Blue Remembered Hills (1979) The Singing Detective (1986)
Spouse: Margaret Morgan (m. 1959–1994)

Dennis Potter

Dennis Potter was born on May 17, 1935 in  Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, England, United Kingdom, is Writer, Producer, Director. Dennis Christopher George Potter was born 17 May 1935 in Berry Hill, a small village in the Forest of Dean, where his grandfather and father were coal miners. Through books, the young Potter found that "words were chariots". He attended school in London and spent two years in the Army. During his three years at Oxford, he wrote The Glittering Coffin (1960), a bitter attack on England. As a BBC trainee, he wrote/hosted Between Two Rivers (1960), a documentary about the Forest of Dean. In 1961 he joined the Daily Herald, where he was TV critic (1962-64). In 1964 he learned he had psoriatic arthropathy, a disease which plagued him for decades, less so after new drugs/treatments turned up. He lost the 1964 election as a Labour candidate, ending his planned political career. That same year, The Wednesday Play (1964) began on the BBC, and he submitted a novel-in-progress, which became his first TV play, The Wednesday Play: The Confidence Course (1965), about motivational seminar swindlers. Over three decades, he wrote novels, essays, stage plays, and movies but mainly focused on TV, where his semi-autobiographical explorations into consciousness and memory led to innovations in drama, often acclaimed. His masterpiece is The Singing Detective (1986), regarded by some as the best original work ever created for television. Only near the end of his life did he move into directing with Blackeyes (1989) and Secret Friends (1991). Steven Bochco's Cop Rock (1990) is just one example of Potter's widening influence. Few Potter plays aired on USA TV, but retrospectives were at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts and NYC's Museum of Television & Radio. His plays and interviews are part of the MT&R's permanent collection, available for viewing in NYC and also at the MT&R in Los Angeles.
Dennis Potter is a member of Writer

Does Dennis Potter Dead or Alive?

As per our current Database, Dennis Potter has been died on 7 June 1994(1994-06-07) (aged 59)\nRoss-on-Wye, Hereford and Worcester (now Herefordshire), England, United Kingdom.

🎂 Dennis Potter - Age, Bio, Faces and Birthday

When Dennis Potter die, Dennis Potter was 59 years old.

Popular As Dennis Potter
Occupation Writer
Age 59 years old
Zodiac Sign Gemini
Born May 17, 1935 ( Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, England, United Kingdom)
Birthday May 17
Town/City  Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, England, United Kingdom
Nationality United Kingdom

🌙 Zodiac

Dennis Potter’s zodiac sign is Gemini. According to astrologers, Gemini is expressive and quick-witted, it represents two different personalities in one and you will never be sure which one you will face. They are sociable, communicative and ready for fun, with a tendency to suddenly get serious, thoughtful and restless. They are fascinated with the world itself, extremely curious, with a constant feeling that there is not enough time to experience everything they want to see.

🌙 Chinese Zodiac Signs

Dennis Potter was born in the Year of the Pig. Those born under the Chinese Zodiac sign of the Pig are extremely nice, good-mannered and tasteful. They’re perfectionists who enjoy finer things but are not perceived as snobs. They enjoy helping others and are good companions until someone close crosses them, then look out! They’re intelligent, always seeking more knowledge, and exclusive. Compatible with Rabbit or Goat.

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Dennis Potter was born in Berry Hill, Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire. His father, Walter Edward Potter (26 April 1906 – November 1975), was a coal miner in this rural mining area between Gloucester and Wales; his mother was Margaret Constance, née Wale (25 August 1910– August 2001). Potter has a sister named June.


In 1946, Potter passed the eleven-plus and attended Bell's Grammar School at Coleford. The ten-year-old Potter was sexually abused by his uncle, an experience he would later allude to many times in his writing. During his speech at the 1993 James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture, Potter referred to this event when explaining his decision to switch from newspaper journalism to screenwriting: "Different words had to be found, with different functions. But why? Why, why, why; the same desperately repeated question I asked myself without any sort of an answer, or any ability to tell my mother or my father, when at the age of ten, between V.E. Day and V.J. Day, I was trapped by an adult's sexual appetite and abused out of innocence." Between 1953 and 1955, Potter did his National Service and learnt Russian at the Joint Services School for Linguists.


Potter's most highly regarded works from this period were the semi-autobiographical plays Stand Up, Nigel Barton! and Vote, Vote, Vote for Nigel Barton, which featured Keith Barron. The former recounts the experience of a miner's son going to Oxford University where he finds himself torn between two worlds, culminating in Barton's participation in a television documentary. This mirrored Potter's participation in Does Class Matter (1958), a television documentary made while Potter was an Oxford undergraduate. The second play features the same character standing as a Labour candidate—his disillusionment with the compromises of electoral politics is based on Potter's own experience. Both plays received praise from critics' circles but aroused considerable tension at the BBC for their potentially incendiary critique of party politics. In his James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture in 1993, Potter recalled how he was asked by "several respected men at the corporation why I wanted to shit on the Queen."


On 10 January 1959 he married at the Christchurch parish church Margaret Amy Morgan (14 August 1933 – 29 May 1994), a local girl he met at a dance. They lived a "surprisingly quiet private life" at Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, and had a son, Robert and two daughters, Jane and Sarah, who was to achieve prominence in the 1980s as an international cricketer.


Potter's first non-fiction work, The Glittering Coffin, was published by the Gollancz Press in 1960. The book was a rumination on the changing face of England in the prosperity following the end of the war years. It was followed by The Changing Forest: Life in the Forest of Dean Today (1962), which was based on the "Between Two Rivers" documentary. This book is a study of class and social mobility that demonstrates an early fascination with the effects of the mass media on British cultural life.


He soon returned to television. Daily Herald Journalist David Nathan persuaded Potter to collaborate with him on sketches for That Was The Week That Was. Their first piece was used in the edition of 5 January 1963.


Potter stood as the Labour Party candidate for Hertfordshire East, a safe Conservative Party seat, in the 1964 general election against the incumbent Derek Walker-Smith. By the end of the unsuccessful campaign, he claimed that he was so disillusioned with party politics he did not even vote for himself. Potter now embarked on work as a television Playwright. He had begun to suffer in 1962 from a condition known as psoriatic arthropathy causing arthritis to develop in his joints as well as affecting his skin with psoriasis. It also made futile any attempt to follow a conventional career path.


Potter's career as a television Playwright began with The Confidence Course (The Wednesday Play, 1965) which Potter had begun as a novel. An exposé of the Dale Carnegie Institute, it drew threats of litigation from that organisation. Although Potter effectively disowned the play, excluding it from his Who's Who entry, it used non-naturalistic dramatic devices (in this case breaking the fourth wall) which would become hallmarks of Potter's subsequent work. The Confidence Course script was liked by Wednesday Play script Editor Roger Smith who then commissioned Potter to write what became the second Nigel Barton play for the new anthology series. Alice (also 1965), his next transmitted play, chronicled the relationship between Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known by his nom de plume, Lewis Carroll, and his muse Alice Liddell. The play drew complaints from the descendants of Dodgson, and of Macmillan, the publisher, who objected to the way the relationship was depicted. George Baker played Dodgson.


Potter contributed Moonlight on the Highway to ITV's Saturday Night Theatre series which was broadcast on 12 April 1969. The play centred around a young man (Ian Holm) who attempts to blot out memories of the sexual abuse he had suffered as child in his obsession with the music of Al Bowlly. As well as being an intensely personal play for Potter, it was his first foray in the use of popular music to heighten the dramatic tension in his work. Four days later Potter's Son of Man, in which the dramatist gives an alternative view of Christ's last days, went out as a Wednesday Play on BBC1 with Irish actor Colin Blakely as Jesus. It led to Potter being accused of blasphemy, and the first of his many clashes with morality campaigner Mary Whitehouse.


Casanova, Potter's first television serial, was broadcast on BBC2 in 1971. Inspired by Willard R. Trask's 1966 translation of Casanova's memoirs (Histoire de ma vie), Potter recast the Venetian libertine as a man haunted by his dependency on women. The serial was told using a non-linear narrative structure and, as the critic Graham Fuller noted in Potter on Potter, "as chamber-piece and identity quest, Casanova strongly anticipates [later works such as] The Singing Detective." It did, however, prove controversial for its frank depiction of nudity and was criticized for its sexual content. Controversy also dogged another play, Brimstone and Treacle (Play for Today, 1976), the original version of which was unscreened by the BBC for over a decade owing to the depiction of the rape of a disabled woman by a man who is implied to be the devil incarnate. It was eventually broadcast on BBC1 in 1987, although a 1982 film version had been made, with Sting in the leading role (see below) and a stage production had opened at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield.


Hide and Seek (1973) was a meta-fictional novel exploring the relationship between reader and author and contains a central protagonist, 'Daniel Miller', who is convinced he is the plaything of an omniscient author. This concept forms the core of Potter's next two novels, and portions of Hide and Seek would reappear in several of his television plays, especially Follow the Yellow Brick Road and The Singing Detective.


Potter's reputation within the American film industry following the box office disappointments of Pennies from Heaven and Gorky Park ultimately led to difficulty receiving backing for his projects. Potter is known to have written adaptations of The Phantom of the Opera, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, The White Hotel and his earlier television play Double Dare (1976): all reached the preproduction stage before work was suspended. More fortunate was Mesmer (1993), a biographical film of the 19th century pseudo-scientist Franz Anton Mesmer. Potter's film, Secret Friends (1991), from his novel, Ticket to Ride, starring Alan Bates. Secret Friends premiered in New York at the Museum of Modern Art as the gala closing of the Museum of Television & Radio’s week-long Potter retrospective.


Potter's pioneering method of using music in his work emerged when developing Pennies from Heaven (1978), one of his biggest successes. He asked actors to mime along to period songs. "Potter tried out the concept himself by lip-syncing to old songs while looking into a mirror. Potter himself once revealed that, working on harnessing songs in his plays, he was most productive 'at night, with old Al Bowlly records playing in the background'". Potter had previously experimented with Bowlly's voice in Moonlight on the Highway (1969).


Potter continued to make news as well as winning critical acclaim for drama serials with Pennies From Heaven (1978), which featured Bob Hoskins as a sheet music salesman and was Hoskins's first performance to receive wide attention. It demonstrated the dramatic possibilities of actors miming to old recordings of popular songs. Blue Remembered Hills was first shown on the BBC on 30 January 1979; it used the dramatic device of adult actors playing children, including Helen Mirren, Janine Duvitski, Michael Elphick, Colin Jeavons, Colin Welland, John Bird, and Robin Ellis. It was directed by Brian Gibson. Potter had used this device before, for Example in Stand Up, Nigel Barton.


Potter's career in the early 1980s was spent as a Screenwriter for the cinema. He returned to the BBC for a co-production with 20th Century Fox, writing the scripts for a widely praised but seldom-seen miniseries of F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender Is the Night (1985) with Mary Steenburgen as Nicole Diver.


To tie-in with the release of the MGM production of Pennies from Heaven in 1981, Potter wrote a novelisation of the screenplay. Potter turned down the option of writing a novelisation for the film version of Brimstone and Treacle, allowing his daughter Sarah to write it instead.


Although Potter only produced one play exclusively for theatrical performance (Sufficient Carbohydrate, 1983 – later filmed for television as Visitors in 1987), he adapted several of his television works for the stage. Vote, Vote, Vote for Nigel Barton, which featured material from its sister-play Stand Up, Nigel Barton, was premiered in 1966, while Only Make Believe (1973), which incorporated scenes from Angels Are So Few (1970), made the transition to the stage in 1974. Son of Man appeared in 1969 with Frank Finlay in the title role (Finlay would also play Casanova in Potter's 1971 serial) and was restaged by Northern Stage in 2006. Brimstone and Treacle was adapted for the stage in 1977 after the BBC refused to screen the original television version. The play text for Blue Remembered Hills was first published in the collection Waiting for the Boat (with Joe's Ark and Blade on the Feather) in 1984 and has since enjoyed several successful stage performances. Potter proposed to write an "intermedia" stage play for producers Geisler-Roberdeau based on william Hazlitt’s Liber Amoris, or The New Pygmalion, but he died before it could be commenced.


Ticket to Ride (1986) was written between drafts of The Singing Detective and concerns a herbithologist who is unable to make love to his wife unless he imagines her as a prostitute. This was followed in 1987 by Blackeyes: a study of a model whose abusive uncle, a Writer, has stolen details of his niece's experiences in the glamour industry as the basis for his latest potboiler.


Following Christabel (1988), Potter's adaptation of the memoirs of Christabel Bielenberg, his next TV serial, Blackeyes (1989) was a major disappointment in his career. A drama about a fashion model, it was reviewed as self-indulgent by some critics, and accused of contributing to the misogyny Potter claimed he intended to expose. The critical backlash against Potter following Blackeyes led to him being nicknamed 'Dirty Den' (after a soap opera character) by the British tabloid press, and resulted in a period of reclusion from television. The serial was adapted into a novel (see below),


In 1990, referring to a scene in The Singing Detective, Mary Whitehouse claimed on BBC Radio that Potter had been influenced by witnessing his mother engaging in adulterous sex. Potter's mother won substantial damages from the BBC and The Listener. Potter had at least at some times actually been an admirer of Mrs Whitehouse: the Journalist Stanley Reynolds found in 1973 that he "loves the idea of Mrs Whitehouse. He sees her as standing up for all the people with ducks on their walls who have been laughed at and treated like rubbish by the sophisticated metropolitan minority." In 1979 in an interview for The South Bank Show, he rejected "the chorus of abuse" suffered by Whitehouse because she accepted the "central moral importance of – to use the grandest word – art".


The last serial broadcast during Potter's lifetime was the romantic comedy Lipstick on Your Collar (1993). Set during the Suez Crisis of 1956 like the much earlier Lay Down Your Arms (1970), elements of which it recycled, this six-parter did not become a popular success and in it Potter returned to use of lip-synched musical numbers in the manner of Pennies from Heaven. It did help to launch the career of actor Ewan McGregor.


Months before Potter was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer his wife, Margaret Morgan Potter, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Despite his own deteriorating condition and punishing work schedule, Potter continued to care for Margaret Amy Potter until she died on 29 May 1994. He died nine days later, in Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, England, aged 59.


Potter was sometimes attacked by other television Writers, including Alan Bennett who referred in his 1998 diaries to a television programme "that took Potter at his own self-evaluation (always high), when there was a good deal of indifferent stuff which was skated over."


A film version of The Singing Detective, based on Potter's own adapted screenplay, was released in 2003 by Icon Productions. Robert Downey, Jr. played the lead alongside Robin Wright Penn and Mel Gibson. Gibson also acted as Producer.


BBC Four marked the tenth anniversary of Potter's death in December 2004 with a major series of documentaries about his life and work, accompanied by showings of Pennies from Heaven and The Singing Detective, as well as several of his single plays — many of which had not been shown since their initial broadcast.


These two related stories, eventually broadcast in 1996, one set in the present and the other in the far Future, both feature Albert Finney as the same principal character. Both series were released on DVD on 6 September 2010.


The device of a disruptive outsider entering a claustrophobic environment is another recurring theme. In plays where this occurs, the outsider will commit some apparently liberating act of evil (rape in Brimstone and Treacle) or violence (murder in Shaggy Dog) that gives physical expression to the unsublimated desires of the characters in that setting. While these more malevolent visitors are often supernatural beings (Angels Are So Few), intelligence agents (Blade on the Feather) or even figments of their host's imagination (Schmoedipus), there are also—rare—instances of benign visitors whose presence resolves personal conflicts rather than exploits them (Joe's Ark; Where Adam Stood).

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