Review: ‘The Pumpkin Eater’

Harold Pinter's screenplay is based on a witty novel by Penelope Mortimer, and his script vividly brings to life the principal characters in this story of a shattered marriage, though Pinter's resort to flashback technique is confusing in the early stages. Jack Clayton's direction gets off to a slow, almost casual start, but the pace quickens as the drama becomes more intense.

Harold Pinter’s screenplay is based on a witty novel by Penelope Mortimer, and his script vividly brings to life the principal characters in this story of a shattered marriage, though Pinter’s resort to flashback technique is confusing in the early stages. Jack Clayton’s direction gets off to a slow, almost casual start, but the pace quickens as the drama becomes more intense.

Anne Bancroft is exceptionally good. She plays the mother of several young children who leaves her second husband to marry Peter Finch, a scriptwriter with a promising career ahead. And as he succeeds in his work, so she becomes aware of his increasing infidelities and she becomes a case for psychiatric treatment. The role may sound conventional enough, but not as played by Bancroft; she adds a depth and understanding which puts it on a higher plane.

Peter Finch’s performance is a mature intrepretation, and always impressive. To him, casual infidelities are the natural prerequisites of a successful writer.

Notwithstanding the scope offered by those two roles, James Mason stands out in a much smaller part. He plays a deceived husband with a sinister, malevolent bitterness, to provide one of the acting highlights of the picture.

1964: Nomination: Best Actress (Anne Bancroft)

The Pumpkin Eater

UK

Production

Columbia/Romulus. Director Jack Clayton; Producer James Woolf; Screenplay Harold Pinter; Camera Oswald Morris; Editor James Clark; Music Georges Delerue; Art Director Edward Marshall

Crew

(B&W) Extract of a review from 1964. Running time: 118 MIN.

With

Anne Bancroft Peter Finch James Mason Cedric Hardwicke Richard Johnson Eric Porter
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