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Penelope Gilliatt

Penelope Gilliatt

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Penelope Gilliatt was an English
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 novelist, short story
Short story
A short story is a work of fiction that is usually written in prose, often in narrative format. This format tends to be more pointed than longer works of fiction, such as novellas and novels. Short story definitions based on length differ somewhat, even among professional writers, in part because...

 writer, screenwriter
Screenwriters or scriptwriters or scenario writers are people who write/create the short or feature-length screenplays from which mass media such as films, television programs, Comics or video games are based.-Profession:...

, and film critic.

She was born in London. Her father, Cyril Conner, was originally a barrister, while her mother was Marie Stephanie Douglass. Both came from Newcastle upon Tyne
Newcastle upon Tyne
Newcastle upon Tyne is a city and metropolitan borough of Tyne and Wear, in North East England. Historically a part of Northumberland, it is situated on the north bank of the River Tyne...

. Penelope Gilliatt herself was brought up in Northumberland
Northumberland is the northernmost ceremonial county and a unitary district in North East England. For Eurostat purposes Northumberland is a NUTS 3 region and is one of three boroughs or unitary districts that comprise the "Northumberland and Tyne and Wear" NUTS 2 region...

, where her father was director of the BBC in the North East from 1938-41, and she retained a lifelong love of the Roman Wall country. John Osborne
John Osborne
John James Osborne was an English playwright, screenwriter, actor and critic of the Establishment. The success of his 1956 play Look Back in Anger transformed English theatre....

, for a time her husband, once said in answer to her phone-call, that he was giving his all "for the burghers of Geordieland, your compatriots."

Gilliatt wrote several novels, including One by One (1965) and A State of Change (1967). Her short stories were collected in Nobody's Business (1972).

As a film critic, Gilliatt wrote numerous reviews for The Observer
The Observer
The Observer is a British newspaper, published on Sundays. In the same place on the political spectrum as its daily sister paper The Guardian, which acquired it in 1993, it takes a liberal or social democratic line on most issues. It is the world's oldest Sunday newspaper.-Origins:The first issue,...

before she began a column that ran for years in The New Yorker
The New Yorker
The New Yorker is an American magazine of reportage, commentary, criticism, essays, fiction, satire, cartoons and poetry published by Condé Nast...

, in which she alternated for six month intervals with Pauline Kael
Pauline Kael
Pauline Kael was an American film critic who wrote for The New Yorker magazine from 1968 to 1991. Earlier in her career, her work appeared in City Lights, McCall's and The New Republic....

 as that publication's chief film critic. Gilliatt's column ran from late spring - early fall, and Kael's for the remainder of the year.

Penelope Gillliatt is perhaps best known for writing the screenplay
A screenplay or script is a written work that is made especially for a film or television program. Screenplays can be original works or adaptations from existing pieces of writing. In them, the movement, actions, expression, and dialogues of the characters are also narrated...

 for Sunday, Bloody Sunday (1971). She won several prestigious Best Screenplay awards for the film, including the New York Film Critics Circle Award, Writers Guild of America
Writers Guild of America
The Writers Guild of America is a generic term referring to the joint efforts of two different US labor unions:* The Writers Guild of America, East , representing TV and film writers East of the Mississippi....

, USA, and Writers' Guild of Great Britain
Writers' Guild of Great Britain
The Writers' Guild of Great Britain, established in 1959, is a trade union for professional writers. It is affiliated with both the Trades Union Congress and the International Affiliation of Writers Guilds .-Activities:...

. The screenplay was also nominated for an Academy Award and a BAFTA
British Academy of Film and Television Arts
The British Academy of Film and Television Arts is a charity in the United Kingdom that hosts annual awards shows for excellence in film, television, television craft, video games and forms of animation.-Introduction:...


Her novel Mortal Matters (1983), much concerned with shipbuilding and suffragettes, is largely set in Northumberland and Newcastle. There are several loving pages devoted to Hexham, and numerous mentions of Newcastle locations. She celebrates the achievements of the North East, including the famous vessels Mauretania
Mauretania is a part of the historical Ancient Libyan land in North Africa. It corresponds to present day Morocco and a part of western Algeria...

 and Charles Parsons'Turbinia
Turbinia was the first steam turbine-powered steamship. Built as an experimental vessel in 1894, and easily the fastest ship in the world at that time, Turbinia was demonstrated dramatically at the Spithead Navy Review in 1897 and set the standard for the next generation of steamships, the...

. Gilliatt also praises the Torrens, the Sunderland-built ship on which Joseph Conrad
Joseph Conrad
Joseph Conrad was a Polish-born English novelist.Conrad is regarded as one of the great novelists in English, although he did not speak the language fluently until he was in his twenties...

 served for two years from 1891.

The house Braw Fell is clearly Cragside
Cragside is a country house in the civil parish of Cartington in Northumberland, England. It was the first house in the world to be lit using hydroelectric power...

, Lord Armstrong's Northumberland mansion, and the master, Sir William Douglass, is obviously modelled on Lord Armstrong himself. Douglass of course was the family name of Penelope’s mother, Mary.

Gilliatt was married to playwright
A playwright, also called a dramatist, is a person who writes plays.The term is not a variant spelling of "playwrite", but something quite distinct: the word wright is an archaic English term for a craftsman or builder...

 John Osborne
John Osborne
John James Osborne was an English playwright, screenwriter, actor and critic of the Establishment. The success of his 1956 play Look Back in Anger transformed English theatre....

 from 1963 to 1968, giving him his only natural child — a daughter, Nolan (whom he later disowned). The New York Times film critic Vincent Canby
Vincent Canby
Vincent Canby was an American film critic who became the chief film critic for The New York Times in 1969 and reviewed more than 1000 films during his tenure there.-Life and career:...

 was for many years her companion. Her death was due to alcoholism
Alcoholism is a broad term for problems with alcohol, and is generally used to mean compulsive and uncontrolled consumption of alcoholic beverages, usually to the detriment of the drinker's health, personal relationships, and social standing...


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