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Joseph Walton Losey (1909-1984)

Joseph Walton Losey

Joseph Losey was a progressive American movie and theatre director, producer and actor. He was born in La Crosse, Wisconsin on January 14th.

Losey first studied medicine in Dartmouth College, then changed his mind and went to Harvard University to learn English Literature. After finishing school he turned toward his passion, theatre.

In 1933, Losey went to the Soviet Union for theatrical studies. He was accompanied by fashion designer, Elizabeth Hawes. Hawes staged a fashion show in Moscow.

Losey and Hawes married in 1937; they divorced in 1944, their son was named Gavrik. Gavrik helped out with the production on some of his father's films. Losey also visited Germany to work with Bertolt Brecht.

Back in 1936, Losey started working in Broadway as director of documentaries and staff director post. After working in radio, and servicing in WWII, Losey came to Hollywood to pursue his carrier. In 1947 he directed his first movie “The Boy with Green Hair”. The same year he returned back to New York and staged the first English language version of Brecht’s Galileo. The play was an extravaganza with 66 roles and starred by Charles Laughton, while Brecht himself was another co-director. In the context of that production, Losey also made a half hour film based on Galileo’s life.

In 1951, and during the communist witch-hunt of the McCarthyism era, Losey’s name was mentioned by two witnesses before the House Un-American activities Committee (HUAC), as a member of US Communist Party. Instead of attending the Committee, Losey abandoned his work on the movie, The Big Night and left the country for Italy.

Losey directed The Prowler in Italy and returned back to US in October 1952, where he found that no one will employ him. He wrote “There was no possible way in which I could make a living in this country, I left. I didn’t come back for twelve years. …”

He left for Rome, but settle in London on January 4th, 1953. In the UK he directed many movies, in his movies the stars acted under pseudonyms, because they feared they would be blacklisted too. Losey himself was removed from some of the projects, for instance, X the Unknown. In 1956, he married British actress Dorothy Bromiley, their son Joshua also became an actor. Losey and Dorothy divorced in 1963.

In 1960, Losey started to work with the progressive playwright Harold Pinter. He successfully directed 3 movies based on Pinter’s screenplays, The Servant (1963), Accident (1967), and To Go Between (1971). All three movies won British Academy and Cannes Festival Film awards. In 1970 he married Patricia Losey (Mohan).

In 1975, Losey filmed Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni, which was nominated for several Cesar Awards in 1980 including best director. Patricia adapted Lorenzo Da Ponte’s opera libretto for Losey’s Don Giovanni.

In 1981, Losey directed his last film Steaming based on a play by Nell Dunn, adapted by both Nell Dunn and Patricia Losey. Steaming’s story centred around three women who meet regularly in a steam room and decide to fight its closure. The cast was headed by Vanessa Redgrave, Sara Miles and Diana Dors. The movie was released in 1985.

After a brief illness, Losey died on January 22nd, at his home in London. It was just one month after completing Steaming.

Losey’s other works:

  • Pete-Roleum and his Cousins (1939, short. Music by Hanns Eisler)

  • Youth Gets Break (1940, short)

  • A Child Went Forth (1941, short. Music by Hanns Eisler)

  • A Gun in His Hand (1945, short)

  • Liben des Galilei (1947, short)

  • The Lawless (1950)

  • M (1951)

  • Imbarco a mezzanotte (1952)

  • The Sleeping Tiger (1954)

  • A man on the Beach (1955)

  • The Intimate Stranger (1956)

  • Time Without Pity (1957)

  • The Gypsy and the Gentleman (1958)

  • First on the Road (1959)

  • Blind Date (1959)

  • The Criminal (1960)

  • Eva (1962)

  • The Damned (1963)

  • King and Country (1964)

  • Modesty Blaise (1966)

  • Secret Ceremony (1968)

  • Boom! (1968)

  • Figure in a landscape (1970)

  • The Assassination of Trotsky (1972)

  • A Doll’s House (1973)

  • The Romantic English Woman (1975)

  • Monsieur Klein (1976)

  • Les Routes Du Sud (1978)

  • La Truite (1982)

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