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British Dramatist Sir John Mortimer Dies At Age 85

The British dramatist Sir John Mortimer has died at age 85 after a long illness. Mortimer is best known for his Rumpole of Bailey series of books, plays, and TV episodes.

Horace Rumpole's speciality is defending those accused of crime in London's Old Bailey. Mortimer created Rumpole for Rumpole of the Bailey, a 1975 contribution to the BBCs Play For Today anthology series. Played with gusto by Leo McKern, the character proved popular, and was developed into a Rumpole of the Bailey television series for Thames Television and a series of books (all written by Mortimer). In September/October 2003, BBC Radio 4 broadcast four new 45-minute Rumpole dramatizations by Mortimer starring Timothy West in the title role. He also dramatised many of the real-life cases of the barrister Edward Marshall-Hall in a radio series starring ex-Doctor Who star Tom Baker.
In 1986, his description of what he saw as Britain's descent into the viciousness of Thatcherism - Paradise Postponed - was televised.

Mortimer was credited with the adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited for Granada Television in 1981. However, Graham Lord's biography, John Mortimer: The Devil's Advocate, revealed in 2005 that none of Mortimer's submitted scripts had in fact been used and that the screenplay was actually written by the series producer and director.
Mortimer adapted John Fowles' The Ebony Tower, starring Laurence Olivier for Granada in 1984. He also wrote the script, based on the autobiography of Franco Zeffirelli, for the 1999 film Tea with Mussolini, directed by Zeffirelli and starring Joan Plowright, Cher, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Lily Tomlin. From 2004, Mortimer worked as a consultant for the politico-legal US comedy television show Boston Legal.

He is survived by his wife and his five children, including the actress Emily Mortimer.

 


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