[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Saturday, 29 May, 2004, 13:36 GMT 14:36 UK
Obituary: Jack Rosenthal
Jack Rosenthal: Masterful dramatist
The playwright Jack Rosenthal was one of the UK's most prolific - and celebrated - television dramatists.

During the mid-1970s, three of his plays, Bar Mitzvah Boy, The Evacuees and Spend, Spend, Spend, won back-to-back British Academy Awards.

Together with Dennis Potter and the two Alans, Bleasdale and Plater, Jack Rosenthal defined a new breed of playwright, writing almost exclusively for television.

Millions of viewers watched his witty and often moving plays which, together with those of his peers, have come to define what many still look back on as a golden era of television drama.

Jack Rosenthal was born in Manchester in 1931 and, after National Service in the Royal Navy and having read English at Sheffield University, he embarked on a career in advertising.

He started writing in his spare time and soon joined the fledgling Granada Television, where his first job entailed ordering toilet-roll holders.

Coronation Street
Rosenthal was a regular Coronation St writer
But in 1961 Jack Rosenthal earned his first television credit with Episode 31 of Coronation Street. A further 128 episodes of the world's longest-running soap opera followed.

1975 saw Rosenthal's first full-length television play, The Evacuees. The semi-autobiographical story of two Jewish boys evacuated from Manchester to Blackpool won a cluster of awards, including an American Emmy.

The previous year, he had married Maureen Lipman, a young actress he had met in 1969 while working on Coronation Street.

The Evacuees was followed by the equally successful Bar Mitzvah Boy and many more television plays, like Spend, Spend, Spend - the story of the real-life pools winner, Viv Nicholson.

Rosenthal also enjoyed hits with The Knowledge - a comedy charting the trials and tribulations of a group of student London cabbies - and Bag Lady, written for Lipman's 1989 television series, About Face.

His essentially humorous style brought further success with the ITV series, The Dustbinmen, as well as with the single plays, Moving Story and Eskimo Day.

Maureen Lipman
Jack Rosenthal married Maureen Lipman in 1974
And he devised, and wrote, London's Burning, a stand-alone play about firefighters. This would eventually be turned into the type of mass-produced series which he thought had ruined British television drama.

In 1983 Jack Rosenthal co-wrote the feature film Yentl with Barbra Streisand. The experience proved such an ordeal that when, years later, he agreed to help with the dialogue on another Streisand vehicle, Prince of Tides. Later, he described it thus: "Halfway through, I bit the thigh bone of a roast duck in a Chinese restaurant, smashing my molar to fragments inside my gum.

"That was the least painful part of the three weeks."

Jack Rosenthal's genius came in detailing, often movingly, the minor tragic-comedies of everyday life.

He wove facets of his own life and those of two great comic traditions, the Jewish and that of the north of England, into some of the wittiest, most elegant and touching of all television dramas.

TV writer Rosenthal dies aged 72
29 May 04  |  Entertainment


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific