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Joseph Walton Losey (January 14, 1909, La Crosse, Wisconsinmarker – June 22, 1984, Londonmarker) was an Americanmarker theater and film director. After studying in Germanymarker with Bertolt Brecht, Losey returned to the United Statesmarker, eventually making his way to Hollywoodmarker.

While in Hollywood, Losey co-directed the original U.S. production of Galileo, by Brecht, with Brecht himself as the other co-director. Charles Laughton, who had worked with Brecht on the translation / adaptation, performed the lead role. In the context of that production, Losey also made a half hour film based on Galileo's life.


During the McCarthy Era, Losey was investigated for his supposed ties with the Communist Party and was blacklisted by the Hollywoodmarker movie studio bosses. His career in shambles, he moved to Londonmarker, where he continued working as a director.

Even in the UKmarker, he experienced problems: his first British film, The Sleeping Tiger, a 1954 film noir crime thriller, bore the pseudonym Victor Hanbury, rather than his own name, in the credits as director, as the stars of the film, Alexis Smith and Alexander Knox, feared being blacklisted in Hollywoodmarker due to working on a film he directed. He was also originally slated to direct the 1956 Hammer Films production X the Unknown; however, after a few days work on the project, star Dean Jagger refused to work with a supposed Communist sympathiser and Losey was moved off the project.

Collaboration with Harold Pinter

In the 1960s, Losey began working with playwright Harold Pinter, the collaboration beginning what would be a long friendship and a successful career for Pinter as a screenwriter. Losey realized three films from Pinter's screenplays, The Servant (1963), Accident (1967) and The Go-Between (1971), all of which have made a mark in the traditions of British, European, and American art house cinema. The Servant won three British Academy awards. Accident won the Grand Prix Spécial du Jury award at the 1967 Cannes Film Festivalmarker. And The Go-Between won, among others, the Golden Palm Award at the 1971 Cannes Film Festivalmarker, four prizes at the 1972 BAFTA awards, and 'Best British Screenplay' at the 1972 Writer's Guild of Great Britain awards. Each of the Pinter-Losey films examines the politics of sexuality, gender, and class in 1960s and 70s Britain. In The Servant, a manservant named Hugo Barrett (Dirk Bogarde) facilitates the moral and psychological degradation of a member of the nouveau riche named Tony (James Fox); Accident explores male lust, hypocrisy, and ennui amongst the educated middle class as two Oxfordmarker tutors named Stephen (Bogarde) and Charley (Stanley Baker) competitively objectify a pupil named Anna (Jacqueline Sassard) against the backdrop of their seemingly idyllic lives. In The Go-Between, a young working class boy named Leo Colston (Dominic Guard) is involved in both facilitating and undermining a socially transgressive affair between an upper class woman named Marian Maudsley (Julie Christie) and a working class farmer named Ted Burgess (Alan Bates).

Losey's move from The Servant to the subsequent two films saw him experimenting increasingly with the mechanisms of cinema, in particular a rendering of time that was not linear but layered and thus exemplary of the subjective experience of memory. Although Losey's films can in the main be described as naturalism, The Servant's hybridization of Losey's signature Baroque style, film noir, naturalism, and expressionism and both Accident's and The Go-Between's radical cinematography, use of montage, voice over, and musical score amount to a sophisticated construction of cinematic time and narrative perspective which edges this work in the direction of neorealist cinema. All three films are marked by Pinter's sparse, elliptical, and enigmatically subtextual dialogue, something Losey often develops a visual correlate for and occasionally even works against by means of dense and cluttered mise en scene and peripatetic camera work.

Pinter later worked with Losey on The Proust Screenplay (1972), an adaptation of A la recherche du temps perdu by Marcel Proust; however, the finances were never found to realize a film before Losey passed away.

Later career

In 1975, Losey realized a long-planned adaptation of Galileo (aka Life of Galileo) by Brecht. Galileo was produced for television and financed in part by the American Film Theatre, though it was shot in England.

In 1979 Losey filmed Mozart's opera Don Giovanni, shot in Villa La Rotondamarker and the Veneto region of Italy: this film was nominated for several César Awards in 1980 including Best Director.

Private life

Losey married three times. From 1956 to 1963 he was married to British actress Dorothy Bromiley; they had a son, Joshua Losey, an actor. He had a son, Gavrik Losey, with the fashion designer/author Elizabeth Hawes. Gavrik helped out with the production on some of his father's films. Losey then married the former Patricia Mohan, who adapted Lorenzo Da Ponte's libretto for Don Giovanni, and Nell Dunn's play Steaming. Losey's third marriage lasted for the rest of his life.

Filmography as director


  • Christian Ledieu Joseph Losey, Seghers, 1963, 188 p.
  • Colin Gardner Joseph Losey, Manchester University Press, 2004.
  • David Caute Joseph Losey: A Revenge on Life, Faber, 1994, ISBN 978-0571164493
  • Edith DeRahm Joseph Losey: An American Director in Exile, Pharos, 1995.
  • Foster Hirsch Joseph Losey, Twayne, 1980.
  • Gilles Jacob "Joseph Losey, or The Camera Calls", Sight and Sound, Spring 1966, pp. 62–67.
  • James Leahy, The Cinema of Joseph Losey, A.S Barnes, 1967, 175 p.
  • James Palmer, and Michael Riley, The Films of Joseph Losey, Cambridge University Press, 1993,
  • Joseph Losey, Losey on Losey, edited and introduced by Tom Milne, Secker & Warburg, 1967, 192 p.
  • Michel Ciment Le Livre de Losey. Entretiens avec le cinéaste, Paris, Stock/Cinéma, 1979, 465 p.
  • Michel Ciment Joseph Losey: l'oeil du Maître, Institut Lumière/Actes Sud, 1994, 360 p.
  • Penelope Houston "Losey's Paper Handkerchief", Sight and Sound, Summer 1966, pp. 142–143.


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