Sewell Stokes

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Francis Martin Sewell Stokes (16 November 1902, London – 2 November 1979, London) was an English novelist, biographer, playwright, screenwriter, broadcaster and prison visitor. He collaborated on a number of occasions with his brother, Leslie Stokes, an actor and later in life a BBC radio producer, with whom he shared a flat for many years overlooking the British Museum. It was here that Sewell Stokes did much of his writing in the Reading Room, used by so many distinguished writers over the years.

London Capital of the United Kingdom

London is the capital and largest city of both England and the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The City of London, London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow closely its medieval limits. The City of Westminster is also an Inner London borough holding city status. Greater London is governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.

Leslie Stokes was an English playwright and BBC radio producer and director.

British Museum National museum in the Bloomsbury area of London

The British Museum, located in the Bloomsbury area of London, in the United Kingdom, is a public institution dedicated to human history, art and culture. Its permanent collection numbers some 8 million works, and is among the largest and most comprehensive in existence having been widely sourced during the era of the British Empire, and documenting the story of human culture from its beginnings to the present. It is the first national public museum in the world.

Contents

Life

Born in Hampstead, London, Stokes was educated at Cranleigh School in Surrey and his first job in 1918 was as a book reviewer and gossip writer with The Sunday Times in London. Three years later, he became assistant editor for T.P.'s Weekly, a radical newspaper founded in 1902 by the Irish journalist and member of parliament Thomas Power O'Connor.

Hampstead affluent area of London, England

Hampstead, commonly known as Hampstead Village, is an area of London, England, 4 miles (6.4 km) northwest of Charing Cross. Part of the London Borough of Camden, it is known for its intellectual, liberal, artistic, musical and literary associations and for Hampstead Heath, a large, hilly expanse of parkland. It has some of the most expensive housing in the London area. The village of Hampstead has more millionaires within its boundaries than any other area of the United Kingdom.

Cranleigh School independent boarding school in Surrey, England

Cranleigh School is an independent English boarding school in the village of Cranleigh, Surrey.

The author became friendly with the American dancer Isadora Duncan towards the very end of her life, when she was penniless and alone, and in 1928, shortly after her death, wrote a memoir of his conversations with her entitled Isadora, an Intimate Portrait. Years later, he co-wrote the film script for the BBC TV film, Isadora Duncan, the Biggest Dancer in the World, with director Ken Russell. Starring Vivian Pickles and Peter Bowles, the film was first broadcast on 22 September 1966. In 1968 his memoir of Duncan, together with her autobiography, My Life, were adapted by Melvyn Bragg for the film Isadora (US title: The Loves of Isadora), directed by Karel Reisz and starring Vanessa Redgrave and James Fox. In his 1954 novel Recital in Paris the character of Sarah Menken was substantially modelled on that of Isadora Duncan.

Isadora Duncan American dancer and choreographer

Angela Isadora Duncan was an American and French dancer who performed to acclaim throughout Europe. Born in California, she lived in Western Europe and the Soviet Union from the age of 22 until her death at age 50, when her scarf became entangled in the wheels and axle of the car in which she was riding.

Isadora Duncan, the Biggest Dancer in the World is a BBC TV film based on the life of the American dancer Isadora Duncan first broadcast on 22 September 1966. The film was directed and produced by Ken Russell and written by Sewell Stokes and Russell. It starred Vivian Pickles and Peter Bowles.

Ken Russell British film director

Henry Kenneth Alfred Russell was a British film director, known for his pioneering work in television and film and for his flamboyant and controversial style. His films in the main were liberal adaptations of existing texts, or biographies, notably of composers of the Romantic era. Russell began directing for the BBC, where he made creative adaptations of composers' lives which were unusual for the time. He also directed many feature films independently and for studios.

Stokes, together with Christine Jope-Slade, wrote the play Britannia of Billingsgate , which was produced by A. R. Whatmore at the St Martin's Theatre, London, on 30 November 1931 and made into a film of the same name, directed by Sinclair Hill, in 1933. Other screenwriting successes followed in 1934 with Rolling in Money , directed by Albert Parker, and in 1941 when Stokes co-wrote, with Lydia Hayward, the script for the film You Will Remember , directed by Jack Raymond. The film was based on the life of the popular late Victorian songwriter Leslie Stuart, played here by Robert Morley, and co-starred Emlyn Williams as Stuart's best friend.

Britannia of Billingsgate is a 1933 British musical comedy film directed by Sinclair Hill and starring Violet Loraine, Gordon Harker, Kay Hammond and John Mills. A family who work in the fish trade at Billingsgate Market encounter a film crew who are shooting there. It was based on the play Britannia of Billingsgate by Christine Jope-Slade and Sewell Stokes.

A. R. Whatmore was a British actor, playwright and producer of plays.

St Martins Theatre theatre in London, England

St Martin's Theatre is a West End theatre which has staged the production of The Mousetrap since March 1974, making it the longest continuous run of any show in the world.

Stokes co-wrote a series of plays with his brother, Leslie, beginning with Laura Garnett , whose main character had much in common with Isadora Duncan. The play was first performed at Dobbs Ferry, New York State, in July 1934 with Ethel Barrymore and later in the Arts Theatre Club, London, in September 1936 with Mary Clare playing the title role.

Ethel Barrymore American actress

Ethel Barrymore was an American actress and a member of the Barrymore family of actors. Barrymore was a stage actress regarded as "The First Lady of the American Theatre" whose career spanned six decades.

Arts Theatre West End theatre in London, England

The Arts Theatre is a theatre in Great Newport Street, in Westminster, Central London.

Mary Clare actress

Mary Clare Absalom was a British actress of stage, film and television.

The Four Partners, a play in German by Jochen Huth, was adapted by Stokes and produced by Margaret Webster at London's Q Theatre in October 1936.

The Q Theatre was a British theatre located near Kew Bridge in Brentford, west London, which operated between 1924 and 1958. It was built on the site of the former Kew Bridge Studios.

Oscar Wilde was the most successful of the Stokes brothers' plays. The play was based on the life of Oscar Wilde in which Wilde's friend, the controversial author and journalist Frank Harris, appears as a character. Starring Robert Morley, John Bryning and Frith Banbury, directed by Norman Marshall, the play had its first production at London's Gate Theatre Studio in 1936. Recast, with Francis L. Sullivan in the title role, it was revived at London's Arts Theatre Club in 1938. Because of its subject matter the play was not granted a licence by the Lord Chamberlain and could, therefore, only be staged in England at a theatre club where membership was required. There were no such problems in New York where the play opened the same year, again with Morley in the title role, on Broadway at the Fulton Theatre where it ran for 247 performances.

At that time Robert Morley was known in America only through his portrayal of Louis XVI, the French King, in the film Marie Antoinette and it was his success with the role of Wilde that launched his career as a stage actor on both sides of the Atlantic. The play, which contains much of Wilde's actual writings, opens in Algiers where Wilde and his friend Lord Alfred Douglas are on holiday together. They return to London for the opening of The Importance of Being Earnest and to attend Wilde's libel suit against the Marquess of Queensbury, Lord Alfred's father. Wilde's own trial and conviction follow and the play ends in Paris with his decline into alcoholism after his release from prison.

The Stokes brothers continued their collaboration with Out of Sight, a play about prison life, first presented at the Gate Theatre Studio on 4 March 1937 where it was directed by Norman Marshall and later the same year there was another production of the play at the Tavistock Little Theatre which was directed by Vincent Pearmain. Next came Frozen Glory, a play about polar exploration, first performed at the Gate Theatre Studio on 10 February 1938 where it was directed by A.E.Filmer.

From 1941 to 1945 he served as a probation officer at Bow Street Magistrates' Court, London, and in 1950 he wrote an autobiographical account of his experiences there, entitled Court Circular published in paperback by Pan Books. In 1952 the book was made into the film I Believe in You , directed by Basil Dearden & Michael Relph and starring Celia Johnson, Cecil Parker, Harry Fowler, Joan Collins and George Relph. Stokes described a tour through British prisons of the day in his book Come to Prison, published in 1957, and in 1965 his book Our Dear Delinquents, on a similar theme, was published.

Stokes was a close friend of the actor Robert Morley and in 1953 wrote, Without Veils. The Intimate Biography of Gladys Cooper, about Morley's mother-in-law, the actress Gladys Cooper. Later, in 1966, he co-wrote a biography of Robert Morley himself entitled Robert Morley "Responsible Gentleman". The title alludes to the fact that Morley started his acting career as a "responsible gentleman", an actor who portrayed professional men such as doctors, lawyers and official receivers in bankruptcy cases.

In 1955 Stokes completed the novel, Beyond His Means, based on the life of Oscar Wilde . The film Oscar Wilde , based on the Stokes brothers' play, and directed by Gregory Ratoff, starred Robert Morley, Ralph Richardson, was released in 1960. This coincided with the release of The Trials of Oscar Wilde , a film directed by Ken Hughes, in which Peter Finch played the title role. The title of Stokes's memoir, Rarely Pure, published in 1952, was taken from the line "The truth is rarely pure and never simple" spoken by character Algernon Moncrieff in Oscar Wilde's play The Importance of Being Earnest. The memoir is subtitled "The Memoirs of a Young Man in Search of Sex".

Stokes worked as a screenplay advisor on Tony Richardson's films The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962), starring Tom Courtenay and Michael Redgrave, and on Tom Jones (1963), starring Albert Finney and Susannah York, and based on the novel of the same name by Henry Fielding.

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Films

Articles & Letters

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