Sir Ronald Harwood has died aged 85

The author of plays such as The Dresser and Quartet was an Oscar-winning screenwriter


One of Britain’s leading playwrights, Sir Ronald Harwood, has died aged 85.

The author of more than 20 plays, he also wrote novels and screenplays, earning an Oscar in 2003 for his script for Roman Polanski’s fim set in the Warsaw Ghetto, The Pianist.

His later work explored  antisemitism and the Holocaust, in plays such as Taking Sides, about the denazification of the German composer Wilhelm Furtwangler, and Collaboration, about the partnership between the composer Richard Strauss and the Jewish writer Stefan Zweig.

But his best-known play is The Dresser, which was later turned into a film, about a personal assistant to an actor, which drew on his own experiences years earlier.

Born in Cape Town as Ronald Horwitz to a father who had come to South Africa from Lithuania, he arrived in London when he was 17 to take up a place at Rada. But as he recalled in his last interview with the Jewish Chronicle, “I was such a bad actor, I could never have made a Iiving.” Unlike his cousin, the leading actor Sir Antony Sher.

In 1953, he became the dresser to the legendary Shakespearean actor Donald Wolfit.

His 1960 play The Barber of Stamford Hill was screened on TV but he subsequently turned to the stage.

The Dresser was first produced in 1980 and another of his plays, Quartet, about a group of retired opera singers, was also adapted for the cinema.

His agent said he died of natural causes on Tuesday.

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