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John Robert Whiting

(1917 – 1963) Actor, dramatist and critic

When John Whiting died, aged only 45, The Times obituarist wrote of him:

As a dramatist, Whiting was in reach of the first rank, even if in his completed works he never quite achieved it. He was an incisive critic .... and his fine critical intelligence prevented him from ever, after ‘Saint’s Day’, going too far, but in artistic creations those who never go too far perhaps never go far enough.”

Whiting was born in Salisbury, Wiltshire and was educated at Taunton School and at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He pursued an acting career before and after service in the Royal Artillery during World War II.

In 1940 he married actress Asthore Lloyd Mawson, known as Jackie, and they had two sons and two daughters.

Post-War, Whiting wrote a first play, Conditions of Agreement, later adapted for television as A Walk in the Desert. His first produced play was A Penny For a Song (1951), followed in the same year by the blackly humorous Saint’s Day.

His other works include: Marching Song (1954); The Gates of Summer (1956); and The Devils (1960). This play, based on the book by Aldous Huxley, was filmed by Ken Russell in 1971.

In 1956, the family moved to Duddleswell where Whiting worked on many plays, film scripts and reviews on a wide mahogany table that had belonged to Lord Byron, writing by hand or typing out the pages on a stately German typewriter, often to the accompaniment of a Beethoven piece on a rather more modern stereo system.

For the last three years of his life, Whiting was a highly-regarded theatre critic of the London Magazine.

John and Jackie (who died in 2001) were both buried in the Christ Church graveyard.

Major works:

  • No More A-Roving (1947)

  • Conditions of Agreement (1947)

  • Saint’s Day (1947-49)

  • A Penny for a Song (1951)

  • Marching Song (1953)

  • The Gates of Summer (1956)

  • No Why (1957)

  • The Devils (1960)

  • The Art of the Dramatist (1970)

Research undertaken by Ian Brown, John Manthorpe and Jan Kemsley

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