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Writing screenplays for television


The Limits of Love paves the way for further success
Frederic Raphael Writer
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So, I got back to England and we traded in the little rusty Ford for a larger, I think it was a Standard Ensign of a grey, rather nice car, and we went to live in a cottage owned by somebody I was at Cambridge with, down in East Bergholt. The Old Mill House, which was where Constable's father had lived. It's in the Constable country. Langham is on one side of the A12 and Dedham is on the other side. Langham was badly hit by the Black Death and was depopulated and only recently recovered, whereas Dedham for some reason was not. Anyway, much all that matters, Constable did Dedham more than he did Langham. But, he did actually paint Langham church.

And Beetle really liked it down there. We had a garden, we had asparagus, we had all kinds of stuff. And Beetle was pregnant, and our daughter Sarah, the painter, was born in Constable's cottage, or Constable's father's cottage. I used to mow the lawn and all the rest of it, and in June of 1960, The Limits of Love was published in London. And, poor little Freddie Raphael – rubbish – actually what happened was that I had a whole page in the Daily Express, which in those days was not run by some kind of gutter merchant but by, of course, the Lord Beaverbrook, who had his whole private gutter, but rather better furnished. Anyway, a guy called Peter Forster was the critic and he emblazoned me on the page and said, this is a book in which the characters step off the page into life, which wasn't a bad thing to be said about a book written by somebody in his late 20s, or anybody else if it comes to that. Anyway, it was a big hit. Now, just before the book received this big piece of publicity, Wolf Mankowitz, who in those days was quite a well known writer, he was an East End Jew who'd been to Cambridge and was actually a Leavisite at one point, a kind of a radically austere English pursuer of the... good taste, but he also had a business in Piccadilly selling Wedgewood, in which he was an expert, and although he'd come down from Cambridge with appropriate honours and all the rest of it, he had sort of turned back into a kind of rough, tough, East End boy. So, I went up to see him because he had written a... bought a book called Memoirs of a Cross-Eyed Man, which he wanted to turn into a movie. So I went in and talked to him and he said, 'Well, I don't want any of that Cambridge crap. You know, I don't want any of that fancy stuff. I don't know whether you can do it, you'll probably... you'll probably... I don't suppose you'll manage it'. So, it was sort of one of those funny... he had a big box of... previously it had those big matches that people had in those days, sort of showy matches, and he opened the box. I don't know why he opened it, and I noticed it was fully of rolled up £5 notes; £5 notes were quite valuable in those days. Sort of strange man, Wolf, actually, because he was... he was very, very aggressively Jewish but also very English with it, very East End, and smart. Too smart. He thought it was really easy to write films. It's fairly easy, but not very.

Anyway, so he sent me away. So, then this piece came out with Peter Forster saying that I was… I'd joined the major league, he said! So, I had a thing from... a call from Wolf… 'I suppose you want to come in now'. So, I went in and I got a job writing this film for Peter Sellers, Memoirs of a Cross-Eyed Man. Peter and Wolf had got a partnership going. Well, by the time I'd gone half way through the script Peter had been told by his clairvoyant that he shouldn't work with Wolf. In other words, his agent had bribed the clairvoyant to tell Peter not to work with… or whatever. So, in the end the script was written and I delivered it and Wolf, I think, paid for it, yes. Because I had a new agent by that time, Richard Gregson, who was very good at his job. So, again, I collected the money for the script and nothing happened. But, another thing happened. Which was that a woman called Stella Richman had been made the head of scripts at Associated Television run by Lew Grade – a Jewish conspiracy reared its head, of course. I wish. Anyway, my agent, Richard Gregson, arranged for me to go and see Stella. And I was, at that point, incredibly lucky.

Born in America in 1931, Frederic Raphael is a writer who moved to England as a boy. He was educated at Charterhouse School and was a Major Scholar in Classics at St John's College, Cambridge. His articles and book reviews appear in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Los Angeles Times and The Sunday Times. He has published more than twenty novels, the best-known being the semi-autobiographical The Glittering Prizes (1976). In 1965 Raphael won an Oscar for the screenplay for the movie Darling, and two years later received an Oscar nomination for his screenplay for Two for the Road. In 1999, he published Eyes Wide Open, a memoir of his collaboration with the director Stanley Kubrick on the screenplay of Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick's final movie. Raphael lives in France and England and became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1964.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Dedham, Langham, The Limits of Love, Daily Express, Memoirs of a Cross-Eyed Man, John Constable, Wolf Mankowitz, Peter Sellers

Duration: 4 minutes, 59 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2014

Date story went live: 10 September 2014