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Peter Glenville
Peter Patrick Brabazon Browne

(1913-10-28)28 October 1913
Died3 June 1996(1996-06-03) (aged 82)
Alma materChrist Church, Oxford
  • Director
  • Actor
Parent(s)Shaun Glenville (father)
Dorothy Ward (mother)

Peter Glenville (born Peter Patrick Brabazon Browne; 28 October 1913 – 3 June 1996) was an English theatre and film director, and actor. He was a prominent director of stage plays on the West End and Broadway in the 1950s. He was nominated for four Tony Awards for his American plays.[1]

In the following decade, he transitioned to become a film director. His first film, The Prisoner (1955), was nominated for Best Film and Best British Film at the 9th British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA).

Glenville was nominated for a Best Director Oscar and a Golden Globe for the 1964 film adaptation of the Jean Anouilh play Becket. He had previously directed the stage version. Two of his other films, Summer and Smoke (1961) and Term of Trial (1962), were both nominated for the Venice Film Festival's Golden Lion. In 2013 critic Rupert Christiansen posthumously described him as a "forgotten giant of mid-20th-century directing."[2]

Early life

Born in Hampstead, London, into a theatrical family, Glenville was the son of Shaun Glenville (born John Browne, 1884–1968), a comedian born in Ireland, and Dorothy Ward, both of whom were pantomime performers.[3][4] The family were devout Irish Catholics, and Glenville maintained this religion for his entire life.[5]

He attended Stonyhurst College and studied law at Christ Church, Oxford. He was president of the Oxford University Dramatic Society, and performed in many roles for them.[4]


In London

Glenville performed as an actor in the UK, where he also started directing. Between 1934 and 1947, he appeared in various leading roles "ranging from Tony Pirelli in Edgar Wallace's gangster drama On the Spot and Stephen Cass in Mary Hayley Bell's horror thriller Duet for Two Hands to Romeo, Prince Hal and an intense Hamlet in a production which he also directed for the Old Vic company in Liverpool..."[4]

Glenville's directorial debut on Broadway was Terence Rattigan's The Browning Version in 1949, which starred Maurice Evans.[6][7]

Other notable productions which followed included The Innocents (1950), the stage adaptation of Henry James's The Turn of the Screw; Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, which starred Douglass Watson and Jack Hawkins, and marked the Broadway debut of Olivia de Havilland (1951);[8] Rattigan's Separate Tables (1954), and Georges Feydeau's Hotel Paradiso (1957).[9][10]

Glenville directed the Bridget Boland play The Prisoner at the Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh in March 1954, and then at the Globe Theatre in London, starring Alec Guinness.[11] Glenville made his film debut as director with the 1955 adaptation of The Prisoner. Alec Guinness repeated his starring role in the film.[12]

In New York

In the 1960s, Glenville and his companion "Bill" Smith moved from London to New York and continued to work in the theatre and in films.[citation needed] From that period, he directed the musical Take Me Along (1959–60), based on Eugene O'Neill's play Ah, Wilderness!, with Jackie Gleason, Walter Pidgeon, Robert Morse, Una Merkel and Eileen Herlie.[13] In 1960, Glenville also directed Barbara Bel Geddes and Henry Fonda on Broadway in Silent Night, Lonely Night by Robert Anderson.[14]

In 1961, he directed Jean Anouilh's play Becket, which starred Laurence Olivier as Thomas Becket and Anthony Quinn as Henry II. An erroneous story arose in later years that during the run, Quinn and Olivier switched roles and Quinn played Becket to Olivier's King.[citation needed] Critic Howard Taubman, in his book The Making of the American Theatre, supports this story, as does a biographer of Laurence Olivier.

But Quinn left the production for a film, never having played Becket. Glenville suggested a road tour with Olivier playing Henry II. Olivier happily acceded and Arthur Kennedy took on the role of Becket for the tour and brief return to Broadway.[15][16]

On Broadway, in 1962–63, Glenville directed Quinn and Margaret Leighton in Tchin-Tchin. This was followed by the musical Tovarich (1963) with Vivien Leigh and Jean-Pierre Aumont. For Dylan, based on the life of Dylan Thomas (1964), Glenville worked again with his frequent collaborator, Sir Alec Guinness. He also directed Edward Albee's adaptation of Giles Cooper's play Everything in the Garden (1967); John Osborne's A Patriot for Me (1969) with Maximilian Schell, Salome Jens and Tommy Lee Jones in his Broadway debut; and Tennessee Williams' Out Cry (1973).[17]

He directed the films Me and the Colonel (1958) with Danny Kaye, Summer and Smoke (1961) with Geraldine Page and Laurence Harvey, Term of Trial (1962) with Laurence Olivier, Simone Signoret and Sarah Miles; Becket (1964) with Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole; Hotel Paradiso (1966)[10] with Guinness and Gina Lollobrigida; and The Comedians (1967) with Elizabeth Taylor, Burton, Guinness, and Peter Ustinov.[18]

Final productions and retirement

In 1970, Glenville directed another new Terence Rattigan play in the West End, A Bequest to the Nation.[19] In 1971 he began work on the film project of Man of La Mancha, but when he failed to agree with United Artists on the production, he bowed out.

In 1973 he directed the original production of Tennessee Williams's play Out Cry on Broadway.[20] After this he retired and eventually moved to San Miguel de Allende, northern Mexico.[citation needed]

Glenville was nominated for four Tony Awards,[17] two Golden Globe Awards (Becket and Me and the Colonel), one Academy Award (Becket) and one Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival for Term of Trial.[21][citation needed]

Personal life

Glenville was for most of his life a closeted homosexual.[5] Glenville met Hardy William Smith (1916-2001) after the end of World War II. Smith, a United States Navy veteran, wanted a career in the theater in the UK. According to his biography at the University of Texas (where his papers are kept), "Glenville and Smith became professional and life partners, with Smith producing and Glenville directing plays for the London stage."[22]

Politically, Glenville identified as a conservative. Historian Gil Troy characterized him as "individualist," "anti-communist," and "anti-totalitarian".[5]Glenville said that he had retired from directing due to a perceived left-wing turn in art and culture, as well as an embrace of Method acting techniques. He disliked the latter and found Method actors difficult to direct.[5]


He died in New York City on 3 June 1996, aged 82, from a heart attack.[23][4]



  1. ^ "Peter Glenville". Playbill.
  2. ^ "Peter Glenville: the forgotten giant of mid-20th century directing". The Telegraph. 28 October 2013. Retrieved 26 December 2023.
  3. ^ Profile of Glenville's parents, John and Dorothy (née Ward) Browne.
  4. ^ a b c d Granger, Derek. "Obituary: Peter Glenville" Independent, 10 June 1996, retrieved 13 January 2017
  5. ^ a b c d Troy, Gil (25 November 2017). "Conservative, Gay, and in the Closet in 1960s Hollywood". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 26 December 2023.
  6. ^ " 'The Browning Version' Broadway" Playbill, retrieved 13 January 2017
  7. ^ Hischak, Thomas S. "Glenville" Enter the Playmakers: Directors and Choreographers on the New York Stage, Scarecrow Press, 2006, ISBN 0810857472, p. 48
  8. ^ " 'Romeo and Juliet' Broadway" Playbill, retrieved 13 January 2017
  9. ^ " 'Hotel Paradiso' Broadway" Playbill, retrieved 13 January 2017
  10. ^ a b Stevens, Christopher (2010). Born Brilliant: The Life Of Kenneth Williams. John Murray. p. 365. ISBN 978-1-84854-195-5.
  11. ^ Kabatchnik, Amnon. The Prisoner, Blood on the Stage, 1950-1975: Milestone Plays of Crime, Mystery, and Detection, Scarecrow Press, 2011, ISBN 0810877848, pp. 145-146
  12. ^ Crowther, Bosley. "Movie Review. 'The Prisoner' " The New York Times, 12 December 1955, retrieved 13 January 2017
  13. ^ " 'Take Me Along' Broadway" Playbill, retrieved 13 January 2017
  14. ^ " 'Silent Night, Lonely Night' Broadway", Playbill, retrieved 13 January 2017
  15. ^ Time Magazine, 7 April 1961.
  16. ^ Spoto, Donald, Laurence Olivier: A Biography, New York: HarperCollins, pp. 360-368.
  17. ^ a b "Peter Glenville Broadway" Playbill, retrieved 13 January 2017
  18. ^ "Peter Glenville Overview", retrieved 13 January 2017
  19. ^ The Collected Plays of Terence Rattigan, Vol. 4, Hamish Hamilton, London, 1978 ISBN 0-241-89996-6
  20. ^ Gussow, Mel. "Catharsis for Tennessee Williams?" The New York Times, March 11, 1973, retrieved January 13, 2017
  21. ^ Term of Trial at IMDb Edit this at Wikidata
  22. ^ "Peter Glenville: An Inventory of His Papers at the Harry Ransom Center", retrieved 13 January 2017
  23. ^ Guinness, Alec, My Name Escapes Me, Penguin Books, 1996.