Peter Bradshaw writes:
Homosexuality is everywhere and nowhere in The Servant. Harold Pinter’s superbly controlled, elliptical, menacing dialogue is able to hint, to imply, to seduce, to repulse, in precisely the manner that gay men were forced to adopt in 1963, when homosexuality was still a criminal offence, and when representing homosexuality on screen was forbidden. To locate the gay gene in The Servant, you have to go back to its source, the 1948 novella written by Robin Maugham, the nephew of W Somerset Maugham. The Servant has its spark in an extraordinary event in Maugham’s own life, to be treasured by connoisseurs of British sex and class.
Maugham had rented a house, which came with its own servant, a man who unnerved him by gliding about almost invisibly. One evening, Maugham went on a date with Mary Soames, the daughter of Winston Churchill. He took her back to his flat and she asked for a drink: a cold lager from the fridge, as opposed to warm ale. (Interestingly, this drink recurs in the movie, but not the novel.) The fridge was just next to the manservant’s room in the basement, the door of which was open; Maugham glanced in and saw a naked teenage boy on the bed. The servant appeared from nowhere and said in his odd drawl: “I see you are admiring my young nephew, sahr. Would you like me to send him up to you to say goodnight, sahr?” Maugham pretended he hadn’t heard and simply went away without replying.
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