life was recorded in a detailed biography, Prick Up Your
Ears, by John Lahr. The title was taken from what was
to be Orton’s next play, a historical farce set
on the eve of Edward VII’s coronation in 1902.
Published in 1978, Lahr’s book was meticulously
researched over many years. Ramsay even granted access
to Orton’s diaries, the existence of which she had
kept secret for many years. While Lahr’s book is
detailed and thorough, it came in for criticism from Ramsay
and Orton family members for focusing more on Orton’s
sexual adventures and for sidelining Halliwell, painting
him as a minor figure who contributed little to Orton’s
work. The author Simon Shepherd further claimed the book
presented an anti-gay attitude that painted Halliwell
as an irritant and a failure, and that their relationship
and life was ultimately doomed.
Lahr subsequently edited Orton’s diaries for publication.
These remain the best account of Orton’s life but
again must be read with a note of caution. Ramsay, who
had possession of the diaries, did not give Lahr access
to the originals, rather she passed on typed copies. It
is not inconceivable that Ramsay carried out some editing
of her own, her protection of her clients was well known.
In 1987 a film, Prick Up Your Ears, based on Orton's diaries
and on Lahr's biography, was released. Written by Alan
Bennett and directed by Stephen Frears, the film starred
Gary Oldman as Orton, Alfred Molina as Halliwell and Vanessa
Redgrave as Ramsay.