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Ronald Harwood CBE, (born 9 November 1934) is an author, playwright and screenwriter. He is most noted for his plays for the British stage as well as the screenplays for The Dresser (for which he was nominated for an Oscar) and The Pianist, for which he won the 2003 Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. He was nominated for the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007).

Early life & career

Harwood was born Ronald Horwitz in Cape Townmarker, South Africa, the son of Isobel (née Pepper) and Isaac Horwitz. Harwood moved from Cape Town to London in 1951 to pursue a career in the theatre. He changed his name from Horwitz after an English master told him it was too foreign and too Jewish for a stage actor. After training for the stage at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, he joined the Shakespeare Company of Sir Donald Wolfit. From 1953 to 1958, Harwood was Sir Donald's personal dresser. He would later draw on this experience when he wrote the stage play, The Dresser, and the biography: Sir Donald Wolfit CBE: His life and work in the Unfashionable Theatre. In 1959, after leaving the Wolfit company. he joined the 59 Theatre Company for a season at the Lyric Hammersmithmarker.

In 1960, Harwood began a career as a writer and published his first novel, All the Same Shadows in 1961, the screenplay, Private Potter in 1962, and the produced stage play, March Hares in 1964. Harwood continued at a prolific pace penning more than 21 stage plays, and 10 books. He also created more than 16 screen plays, but seldom wrote original material directly for the screen, usually acting as an adapter, sometimes of his own work (notably The Dresser).

One of the recurring themes in Harwood's work is his fascination for the stage, its performing artists and artisans as displayed in the The Dresser, his plays, After the Lions (about Sarah Bernhardt), Another Time (a semi-autobiographical piece about a gifted South African pianist), Quartet (about ageing opera singers) and his non-fiction book All the World's a Stage, a general history of theatre. Harwood also has a strong interest in World War II, as shown by the films Operation Daybreak, The Statement, The Pianist, and his play turned to film Taking Sides. Based on true stories, the two last films feature musicians as their main characters. His 2008 play An English Tragedy is based on the true story of the British fascist John Amery.

Harwood also wrote the screenplay for the films, The Browning Version (1994) with Albert Finney, Being Julia (2004) with Annette Bening and Jeremy Irons, and Roman Polanski's version of Oliver Twist (2005) with Ben Kingsley.

He won an Academy Award for the script of The Pianist, having already been nominated for The Dresser in 1983. Harwood received his third Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2007 for his adaptation of the memoir by Jean-Dominique Bauby, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, for which he also won a BAFTA. In 2008. Harwood was awarded the Humanitas Award in recognition of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.


Harwood was president of the English PEN Club from 1989 to 1993, and of International PEN from 1993 to 1997. He was Chairman of the Royal Society of Literature (2001 to 2004) and is President of the Royal Literary Fund (2005). He was made Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1974, Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters (1996) and Commander of the British Empire in 1999. In 2003 he was elected a member of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts in the Department of Language and Literature. He was made Doctor of Letters, Keele University (2002), Doctor Honoris Causa, National Academy for Theatre & Film Arts, Sofia (2007), Honorary Fellow, Central School of Speech and Drama (2007) and Honorary Fellow, University of Chichester (2009). He has been the Chairman of the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford since 2008.

Personal life

Harwood was born Ronald Horwitz on November 9, 1934 in Cape Townmarker, South Africa, the son of Isaac Horwitz and Isobel Pepper. He attended the Seapoint Boys’ High School there. He moved to England in 1951. In 1981, he married Natasha Riehle. The actor Sir Antony Sher is his cousin.


Selected Stage plays


Books and published works

  • All the Same Shadows (novel) Cape (1961)
  • George Washington September Sir! (novel) Avon (1961)
  • The Guilt Merchants (novel) Cape (1963)
  • The Girl in Melanie Klein (novel) Secker & Warburg (1969)
  • Sir Donald Wolfit: His Life and Work in the Unfashionable Theatre (biography) Secker & Warburg (1971) ISBN 0436191210)
  • Articles of Faith (novel - Winifred Holtby Prize) Secker & Warburg (1973) ISBN 0436191229
  • The Genoa Ferry (novel) Secker & Warburg (1976) ISBN 0436191237
  • César and Augusta (novel about the composer César Franck) Secker & Warburg (1978) ISBN 0436191199
  • One. Interior. Day. Adventures in the Film Trade, Secker & Warburg (1978) ISBN 0436191245
  • New Stories 3: An Arts Council Anthology (with Francis King) Hutchinson (1978) ISBN 0091332710
  • The Dresser (play) Grove Press (1981) ISBN 0394179366
  • A Night at the Theatre (editor), Methuen (1982) ISBN 0413499502
  • The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold (play) Amber Lane (1983) ISBN 0906399424
  • After the Lions (play) Amber Lane (1983) ISBN 0906399416
  • All the World's a Stage (theatre history), Secker & Warburg (1984) ISBN 0436191326
  • The Ages of Gielgud, an Actor at Eighty, Hodder & Stoughton (1984) ISBN 0340348283
  • Tramway Road (play) Amber Lane (1984) ISBN 0906399580
  • The Deliberate Death of a Polish Priest (play) Amber Lane (1985) ISBN 0906399637
  • Interpreters (play) Amber Lane (1986) ISBN 090639967X
  • Mandela (a Channel Four book), Boxtree (1987) ISBN 1852832045
  • Dear Alec: Guinness at 75 (editor), Hodder & Stoughton (1989) ISBN 0340499540
  • Another Time (play) Amber Lane (1989) ISBN 090639998X
  • Reflected Glory (play) Faber (1992) ISBN 0571164633
  • The Collected Plays of Ronald Harwood, Faber (1993) ISBN 0571170013
  • The Faber Book of the Theatre (editor) Faber (1994) ISBN 0571164811
  • Harwood Plays: Two (Contemporary Classics), Faber (1995) ISBN 9001877427
  • The Handyman (play) Faber (1997) ISBN 0571190413
  • Quartet/Equally Divided (plays) Faber (1999) ISBN 0571200923)
  • Mahler's Conversion (play) Faber (2001) ISBN 9780571212316
  • The Pianist/Taking Sides (screenplays) Faber (2003) ISBN 0571212816
  • An English Tragedy (play) Faber (2006) ISBN 0571233287
  • Ronald Harwood's Adaptations: From Other Works Into Films, Guerilla Books (2007) ISBN 9780955494307

See also

Further reading

  • Who's Who in the Theatre 17th edition, Gale (1981) ISBN 0810302157
  • HaIliwell's Who's Who in the Movies, 4th edition, HarperCollins (2006) ISBN 0007169574
  • Theatre Record and its annual Indexes
  • The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Literature in English, Oxford (1996) ISBN 0192122711


  2. Walker, Tim In Praise of the Patriotic Playwright, The Spectator, June 14, 2006
  3. Financial Times interview with Ronald Harwood, 16 February 2008[1]
  4. Evening Standard review, 19 February 2008[2]
  5. Ronald Harwood's CV in Who's Who in the Theatre 17th edition (1981)
  6. Stage review of the 2004-5 revival of The Dresser [3]

External links

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