John Clifford Mortimer:
An Inventory of His Papers at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center
John Clifford Mortimer, the only child of Clifford and Kathleen May Smith Mortimer, was born in Hampstead, London, on April 21, 1923. He was educated at Harrow School (1937-40) and Brasenose College, Oxford (1940-42, BA 1947), and, like his father, he became a barrister in 1948 after serving as a scriptwriter and assistant director for the Crown Film Units during World War II. Mortimer's first novel, Charade, was also published in 1948, and within ten years he had published six more novels. His third radio play, The Dock Brief, which was produced by the BBC Third Programme in 1957, won the Italia Prize and was produced on the stage in 1958, along with the first play he wrote for the stage, What Shall We Tell Caroline? Among his subsequent stage plays are The Wrong Side of the Park (1960), The Judge (1967), A Voyage Round My Father (1970), and Collaborators (1973). He also wrote translations of Georges Feydeau's A Flea in Her Ear (1966) and Cat among the Pigeons (1969). Besides writing for radio and television, Mortimer also wrote screenplays for The Running Man (1963), John and Mary (1969), and other films.
Unlike his playwright contemporaries, the “angry young men” of the 1950s, Mortimer came from an upper-class background, wrote about the middle classes in decline, and followed established theatrical traditions. He is better known for his one-act plays than his full-length ones, and he is perhaps best known for his "Rumpole of the Bailey" novels and television series, and for his television adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited.
Mortimer continued to work as a lawyer and became a Queen's Counsel (1966) and Master of the Bench, Inner Temple (1975). In a celebrated case in 1970 he successfully defended the publishers of Oz against pornography charges.
Mortimer married twice, first to author Penelope Fletcher Dimont (1949, divorced 1971), and second to Penelope Gollop (1972-), and he had two children with each.
More information about John Mortimer and his work may be found in the following sources: Contemporary Authors, New Revision Series, volume 21 (Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1981-); Dictionary of Literary Biography, volume 13 (Detroit, Mich.: Gale Research Co., 1982); and the International Dictionary of Theatre, volume 2 (Chicago: St. James Press, 1992-96).
The John Mortimer papers include typescript and holograph drafts of his plays, teleplays, and radio plays, as well as correspondence about the papers and Mortimer's list of his manuscripts, all dating from 1957-1967. Among noteworthy items are a holograph and a typescript draft of his Feydeau translation Cat among the Pigeons, a revised carbon typescript of Collect Your Hand Baggage, and a duplicated radio script of his most famous one-act play, The Dock Brief. Early drafts of The Judge show his rearrangement of the order of scenes, while a duplicated typescript for the 1967 Cambridge Theatre production of the play contains extensive holograph revisions made during rehearsals. Holograph drafts of The Other Side and The Rare Device show much rewriting. Two early versions of The Wrong Side of the Park are also present, including a heavily revised holograph draft of the first act.
Open for research
Purchase, 1968 (Reg #4352)
Katherine Mosley, 1999
John Mortimer Papers--Folder List