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Joe Orton
(January 1, 1933 - August 9, 1967) U.K.

Joe Orton

Writer, playwright, actor


John Kingsley Orton, born in a working-class area of Leicester, England. He was beaten to death by Kenneth Halliwell, his male lover of sixteen years, who immediately committed suicide.

Orton did say, "I have high hopes of dying in my prime."


Writer of outrageous black farces including Entertaining Mr. Sloane (1964), and Loot (1966). These are savage comic expressions of Orton's contempt for social institutions, as well as vehicles for his delight in shocking people.

Joe OrtonJoe Orton was 18 when he first met his lover Kenneth Halliwell who was then 25. They met when Joe Orton joined the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) in London, in May 1951. Joe Orton moved in with Kenneth Halliwell in his flat at 161 West End Lane, London, NW6 in June 1951.

In 1959 Kenneth Halliwell bought them a new flat at 25 Noel Road, Islington, London, N1.

Kenneth Halliwell, remained a struggling, unpublished writer as Joe Orton's career rocketed. Prior to being beaten to death by his long-time lover Kenneth Haliwell, Orton kept a detailed diary of his love life. In it he described encounters with public restroom regulars, young Moroccan boys, and an Irishman who had "a very tight arse. A Catholic upbringing, I suspect".

On 9th August 1967 Halliwell bashed in Orton's skull with a hammer in their flat, while his lover was sleeping, then killed himself with an overdose of twenty-two Nembutal sleeping pills washed down with the juice from a tin of grapefruit.

Halliwell died first.

On the desk near to Joe Orton's diary the police found the note:

"If you read his diary all will be explained.

K. H.

P. S. Especially the latter part".

Joe OrtonThe bodies were found by a chauffeur sent to collect Joe Orton for a meeting to discuss a screenplay that he had written for John Lennon and Ringo Starr. Orton's favourite song, A Day in the Life, by the Beatles, was played at his funeral.

After his death an "Orton industry" developed, and was particularly stimulated in 1978 by John Lahr's biography of Joe Orton. Two plays were written about the relationship between Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell: Cock-ups and Black and Blue. In Because we're Queers: The Life and Crimes of Kenneth Halliwell and Joe Orton, (1989), Simon Shepherd criticised the way that the lives and relationship of Kenneth Halliwell and Joe Orton were described, particularly by John Lahr.

Simon Shepherd claimed that an anti-gay attitude sidelined Kenneth Halliwell into an irritant and failure, and that biographers made out that such a gay relationship was doomed to failure. Simon Shepherd's thesis is that the two lovers had a similar view of society and they were both important in the development of the "Ortonesque" style.

In 1987 a biographical film was released: Prick up your ears.


Source: The Knitting Circle, UK - http://www.sbu.ac.uk/stafflag/people.html - et alii


  • The Boy Hairdresser (1954, with Kenneth Halliwell , novel, not published in their lifetimes)
  • Between Us Girls (1957, published posthumously in 1998)
  • Lord Cucumber (1960, with Kenneth Halliwell, novel, not published in their lifetimes)
  • Entertaining Mr Sloane (1964)
  • The Ruffian on the Stair (1966 radio version, revised 1967)
  • Loot (1967)
  • The Erpingham Camp (1967)
  • What the Butler Saw (1969)
  • The Good and Faithful Servant (1970)
  • Funeral Games (1970)
  • Head to toe (novel published posthumously in 1971 , originally called The Vision of Gombold Proval)
  • Up Against It (screenplay, published posthumously in 1979)
  • The Orton Diaries (1986)
  • Entertaining Mr.Sloane (1964)
  • Loot (1966)
  • Fred and Madge (1998)
  • The Visitors (1998)
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