The Servant (1963 film)

The Servant is a 1963 British drama film directed by Joseph Losey. It was written by Harold Pinter, who adapted Robin Maugham's 1948 novella. The Servant stars Dirk Bogarde, Sarah Miles, Wendy Craig and James Fox. It opened at London's Warner Theatre on 14 November 1963.[2]

The Servant
The Servant (film).jpg
Directed byJoseph Losey
Produced byJoseph Losey
Norman Priggen
Written byRobin Maugham (novel)
Harold Pinter (screenplay)
StarringDirk Bogarde
Sarah Miles
James Fox
Wendy Craig
Music byJohn Dankworth
CinematographyDouglas Slocombe
Edited byReginald Mills
Distributed byLandau Releasing Organisation
Elstree Distributors Limited
Release date
14 November 1963
Running time
115 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom

The first of Pinter's three film collaborations with Losey, which also include Accident (1967) and The Go-Between (1971), The Servant is a tightly constructed psychological dramatic film about the relationships among the four central characters examining issues relating to social class, servitude and the ennui of the upper classes.[3]


Tony (James Fox) a wealthy young Londoner who says he builds cities in Brazil, moves into his new house and hires Hugo Barrett (Dirk Bogarde) as his manservant. Initially, Barrett appears to take easily to his new job, and he and Tony form a quiet bond, retaining their social roles. Relationships begin shifting, however, and they change with the introduction of Susan (Wendy Craig), Tony's girlfriend, who is suspicious of Barrett and hates all he represents. She wants Tony to dismiss Barrett, but he refuses.

Just as the biblical Abraham did twice with his wife Sarah (Genesis 12:10-20 and Genesis 20:1-18), Barrett brings his lover Vera (Sarah Miles), whom he presents as his sister, into Tony's household as a maidservant. Barrett gets Vera to seduce Tony, so he can control him. Through Barrett's and Vera's manipulations, the couples reverse roles; Tony becomes more and more dissipated, sinking further into what he perceives as Barrett and Vera’s level, whereas Barrett becomes more domineering and commanding; the master and the servant exchange roles. In the final scene, Tony has become wholly dependent on Barrett, and Susan is exiled permanently from the house by the servant she wanted dismissed.

Cast and charactersEdit

Losey's adaptationEdit

"It was Losey who first showed Robin Maugham's novella The Servant to Bogarde in 1954. Originally separately commissioned by director Michael Anderson, Pinter stripped it of its first-person narrator, its yellow book snobbery, and the arguably anti-Semitic characterisation of Barrett – oiliness, heavy lids – replacing them with an economical language that implied rather than stated the slippage of power relations away from Tony towards Barrett."[3]

Losey's other collaborations with Pinter, Accident and The Go-Between, share a resemblance to The Servant in that these offer the same savage indictment of the waning English class system,[4] a theme which British film-makers previously had not explored.


The soundtrack by John Dankworth includes the song "All Gone", sung by Cleo Laine, used repeatedly in the film.

Folk guitarist Davy Graham makes a brief cameo playing the song Rock Me Baby.


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Alexander Walker, Hollywood, England, Stein and Day, 1974, p. 209
  2. ^ Kinematograph Weekly vol 558 no 2928, 14 November 1963
  3. ^ a b Nick James, "Joseph Losey & Harold Pinter: In Search of PoshLust Times", BFI, British Film Institute, (last updated) 27 June 2007, Web, 19 June 2009: "From Venetian decadence and British class war to Proustian time games, the films of Joseph Losey and Harold Pinter gave us a new, ambitious, high-culture kind of art film, says Nick James."
  4. ^ Losey, Joseph. "The Servant." UK: Studio Canal, 2007

Further readingEdit

  • Billington, Michael. Harold Pinter. London: Faber and Faber, 2007. ISBN 978-0-571-23476-9 (13). Updated 2nd ed. of The Life and Work of Harold Pinter. 1996. London: Faber and Faber, 1997. ISBN 0-571-17103-6 (10). Print.
  • Gale, Steven H. Sharp Cut: Harold Pinter's Screenplays and the Artistic Process. Lexington. Kentucky: The UP of Kentucky, 2003. ISBN 0-8131-2244-9 (10). ISBN 978-0-8131-2244-1 (13). Print.
  • Gale, Steven H., ed. The Films of Harold Pinter. Albany: SUNY P, 2001. ISBN 0-7914-4932-7. ISBN 978-0-7914-4932-5. Print.
  • Sargeant, Amy: The Servant: Palgrave Macmillan/BFI Modern Classics: 2011: ISBN 1-84457-382-6
  • Weedman, Christopher (2019). "A Dark Exilic Vision of 1960s Britain: Gothic Horror and Film Noir Pervading Losey and Pinter's The Servant." JCMS: Journal of Cinema and Media Studies 58.3, pp. 93–117.

External linksEdit