The Go-Between (1971 film)

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The Go-Between
The Go-Between UK poster.jpg
Original British quad format poster
Directed by Joseph Losey
Produced by John Heyman
Denis Johnson
Norman Priggen
Screenplay by Harold Pinter
Based on The Go-Between
by L. P. Hartley
Starring Julie Christie
Alan Bates
Margaret Leighton
Edward Fox
Dominic Guard
Music by Michel Legrand
Cinematography Gerry Fisher
Edited by Reginald Beck
Distributed by MGM-EMI Distributors (UK)
Columbia Pictures (US)
Release date
  • 24 September 1971 (1971-09-24) (UK[1])
  • 13 November 1971 (1971-11-13) (US)
Running time
116 minutes[2]
Country United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Budget £500,000[3] or under $1 million[4] or $1.2 million[5]

The Go-Between is a 1971[1] British romantic drama film directed by Joseph Losey. Its screenplay, by Harold Pinter, is an adaptation of the 1953 novel The Go-Between by L. P. Hartley. The film stars Julie Christie, Alan Bates, Margaret Leighton, Michael Redgrave and Dominic Guard. It won the Grand Prix at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival.[6]


The story follows a young boy named Leo Colston (Dominic Guard), who in the year 1900 is a guest of his wealthy school friend, Marcus Maudsley (Richard Gibson), to spend the summer holidays at his family's Norfolk country house. While there, Marcus is taken sick and quarantined with the measles. Left to entertain himself, Leo befriends Marcus's beautiful elder sister Marian Maudsley (Julie Christie), and finds himself a messenger, carrying messages between her and a tenant farmer neighbour, Ted Burgess (Alan Bates), with whom she is engaging in a secret illicit affair.

Her parents, however want to engage her to Hugh, Viscount Trimingham (played by Edward Fox) the estate owner. A heatwave leading to a thunderstorm coincides with Leo's birthday party and the film's climax, when Marian's mother and Leo, in search for Marian, find her making love with Burgess in a farm building. This event has a long-lasting impact on Leo after Burgess shoots himself dead in his farmhouse kitchen.

More than fifty years later, Marian, now the Dowager Lady Trimingham, sends for Leo, wanting him to speak to her grandson to assure him that she had truly loved Burgess. She asks Leo whether her grandson reminds him of anyone, and he replies "Yes. Ted Burgess".

Michael Redgrave plays Leo in old age.

Main cast



The rights to the novel had been in the hands of many producers, including Anthony Asquith. Then Sir Alexander Korda purchased it in 1956. He originally envisaged Alec Guinness and Margaret Leighton in the leads and employed Nancy Mitford to write a script.[4][7] L.P. Hartley later claimed Korda had no real intention to make a film of the book - he kept the rights hoping to re-sell them at a profit. Hartley says "I was so annoyed when I heard of this that I put a curse on him and he died, almost the next morning."[7]

Joseph Losey was interested in filming the novel. He tried to get financing for a version in 1963 after The Servant and says Pinter wrote "two thirds of a script".[7][8] Losey was unable to get finance then or again in 1968.[4]

"The company had cold feet about the story," said Losey. "It was too tame for the pornographic age. As one man put it, who would be interested in a bit of Edwardian nostalgia? That's idiotic. It is certainly not a romantic or sentimental piece. It has a surface and a coating of romantic melodrama, but it has a bitter core."[4]

Losey said he was attracted to the novel because it was about "the terrible sense of shortness of any human life, the sense of totality of life."[9]

Pinter's screenplay for the film was his final collaboration with Losey, following The Servant (1963) and Accident (1967). It is largely faithful to the novel, although it alludes to the novel's opening events in dialogue, in which Leo is admired by other boys at his school as they believe he used black magic to punish two bullies, and also moves events described in the novel's epilogue into the central narrative.[7]

Losey says he was glad he and Pinter did not make the film until after Accident because that film encouraged them to play around with time in storytelling.[4]

Eventually John Heyman managed to get financing from EMI Films, where Bryan Forbes agreed to pay £75,000 for the script.[10] Because of the relatively steep budget, EMI had to seek co-production financing from MGM. Losey budgeted the film for $2.4 million but had to make it for $1.2 million; he did this by cutting the shooting schedule by a month and working for a percentage of the profits instead of a fee.[5]

In July 1970 MGM-EMI announced they would make the film as part of four co-productions, the others being Get Carter, The Boyfriend and The Last Run directed by John Boorman.[11] Of these only the last was not made.


Filming started in August 1970.[12] The film was shot at Melton Constable Hall, Heydon and Norwich in Norfolk.[13] Filming wound up in November.[14]

Pinter was on set during filming.[7] Losey said the making of the film was one of the most happy in his career.[4]


Richard Bennett was originally announced as the composer.[15] However Michel Legrand ended up doing the soundtrack for the film. The main theme was later used as the title music for the French "true crime" documentary series Faites entrer l'accusé (in French Wikipedia).[16] The love theme "I Still See You" written by Legrand with lyrics by Hal Sharper was performed by Scott Walker and released as a single in late 1971.


The film was first shown in May 1971 at the Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Grand Prix International du Festival.[17] A few days before, James Aubrey, head of MGM, had sold his interest in it to Columbia Pictures, because he disliked the final film and regarded it a flop.[18]

The film was released in the UK on 24 September 1971, opening at ABC1 on Shaftesbury Avenue in London.[1] A month later, on 29 October, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother arrived at the ABC Cinema on Prince of Wales Road in Norwich to attend the local premiere, thus giving Norwich its first ever Royal Premiere.[19]

EMI sold this and Tales of Beatrix Potter to China for release at $16,000 each. They were the first western films to be released in China for two decades.[20]

Box office

By August 1971 Nat Cohen stated the film had already been "contracted" for a million dollars.[21]

However by September 1972 James Aubrey of MGM said the film lost Columbia $200,000 and insisted that selling the film had been the right move.[22]

In 1973 Losey said the film was still not in profit.[23]

Critical reception

An enthusiastic John Russell Taylor wrote in The Times that, "Up to now, Accident was without argument Losey's best film; now in The Go-Between it has a serious contender for the title. And everything is achieved by apparently doing the absolute minimum."[1] Charles Champlain in the Los Angeles Times wrote after the US premiere in November 1971 that The Go-Between was one of the best films of the previous six years. Andrew Sarris in the Village Voice labelled it the best film of the year.[24] Writing in 1985, Joanne Klein saw the filmscript "as a major stylistic and technical advance in Pinter’s work for the screen", and Foster Hirsch described it as “one of the world’s great films” in 1980.[25] In 2009, Emanuel Levy called the film "Losey's Masterpiece".[26]


For many involved it was praised as the peak of their careers. Leighton earned her first and only Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the film. In 1999, it was included on the British Film Institute's list of its 100 best British films.

Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
Academy Awards 10 April 1972 Best Supporting Actress Margaret Leighton Nominated [27]
British Academy Film Awards 1972 Best Film The Go-Between Nominated [28]
Best Direction Joseph Losey Nominated
Best Screenplay Harold Pinter Won
Best Actress Julie Christie Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Margaret Leighton Won
Best Supporting Actor Edward Fox Won
Best Supporting Actor Michael Gough Nominated
Best Cinematography Gerry Fisher Nominated
Best Art Direction Carmen Dillon Nominated
Best Costume Design John Furniss Nominated
Best Soundtrack Garth Craven, Peter Handford, Hugh Strain Nominated
Most Promising Newcomer Dominic Guard Won
Cannes Film Festival 2 – 27 May 1971 Grand Prix International du Festival Joseph Losey Won [17]
Golden Globe Awards 6 February 1972 Best Foreign Film, English Language Joseph Losey Nominated [29]
Writers' Guild of Great Britain 17 February 1972 Best British Screenplay Harold Pinter Won [30]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d The Times, 24 September 1971, page 9: The shadows of a country-house summer (film review by John Russell Taylor) - Read 2014-01-11 in The Times Digital Archive
  2. ^ BBFC: The Go-Between Linked 2014-01-11
  3. ^ Walker, Alexander (1974). Hollywood UK – The British Film Industry in the Sixties. Stein and Day. p. 439. ISBN 978-0-812-81549-8.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Losey Revels in Happy 'Go-Between' By MEL GUSSOW. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 11 Aug 1971: 44.
  5. ^ a b HOLLYWOOD EXILE: AN INTERVIEW WITH JOSEPH LOSEY Phillips, Gene D. Journal of Popular Film; Washington, D.C. Vol. 5, Iss. 1, (Jan 1, 1976): 29.
  6. ^ "A brief history of the Palme d'or". Retrieved 28 May 2017.
  7. ^ a b c d e Take three on the go-between The Guardian 16 Mar 1971: 8.
  8. ^ VIEW FROM A LOCAL VANTAGE POINT New York Times 16 Feb 1964: X7.
  9. ^ Director proves them all wrong The Irish Times 7 Aug 1971: 8.
  10. ^ Bryan Forbes: A Divided Life – Memoirs (page 100)
  11. ^ Spectrum Of Interest: Film Notes By Gary Arnold. The Washington Post, Times Herald 15 July 1970: B5.
  12. ^ Michele Carey Signs for 'Scandalous' Role Martin, Betty. Los Angeles Times 31 Aug 1970: c17.
  13. ^ The Go-Between: EMI Films 1970 at Norwich the old city.
  14. ^ Time to Go for 'Go-Between' Cast Blume, Mary. Los Angeles Times 15 Nov 1970: v31.
  15. ^ MOVIE CALL SHEET Los Angeles Times 06 Oct 1970: d15.
  16. ^ Compare the movie's main theme on YouTube with the one for the French crime series on YouTube.
  17. ^ a b "THE GO-BETWEEN". Cannes Film Festival. Retrieved 17 June 2017.
  18. ^ Bryan Forbes: A Divided Life – Memoirs (page 221)
  19. ^ East Anglian Film Archive: Anglia News: Queen Mother at Premiere of 'The Go-Between' at ABC Norwich Linked 2014-01-11. At the "Royal Screening" both Harold Pinter and L. P. Hartley were presented to HM the Queen Mother by Bernard Delfont. See Hartop, p. 62 and illus. p. 63.
  20. ^ EMI of Britain Sells Red China Two Movies For Release to Public: Films Will Be First From West To Receive Wide Exposure There in Over Two Decades Wall Street Journal 13 Jan 1972: 17.
  21. ^ NAT COHEN. "British film finance." The Times [London, England] 20 Aug. 1971: 13. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 6 Apr. 2014.
  22. ^ Kasindorf, Martin (10 Sep 1972). "How now, Dick Daring?". New York Times. p. SM54.
  23. ^ Losey on 'broken promises' Barker, Dennis. The Guardian 1 Aug 1973: 6.
  24. ^ Sarris, Andrew (12 August 1971). "The Go-Between". Village Voice.
  25. ^ As cited in Hudgins, Christopher C. (11 June 2008). "Harold Pinter's The Go-Between: The Courage To Be". Cycnos. 14 (1). See also Hirsch, Foster (1980). Joseph Losey. Twayne. p. 136. ISBN 9780805792577. OCLC 6277858. and Klein, Joanne (1985). Making pictures : the Pinter screenplays. Ohio State University Press. p. 102. ISBN 9780814204009. OCLC 11676189.
  26. ^ Levy, Emanuel (13 November 2009). "Go-Between (1971): Losey's Masterpiece Starring Julie Christie and Alan Bates".
  27. ^ "THE 44TH ACADEMY AWARDS". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 17 June 2017.
  28. ^ "Film in 1972". British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Retrieved 17 June 2017.
  29. ^ "Go-Between, The". Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Retrieved 17 June 2017.
  30. ^ "WRITERS' GUILD AWARDS 1971". Writers' Guild of Great Britain. Retrieved 17 June 2017.

Further reading

External links

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