Penelope Gilliatt

Novelist, Author

1932 – 1993


Who was Penelope Gilliatt?

Penelope Gilliatt was an English novelist, short story writer, screenwriter, and film critic.

She was born in London. Her father, Cyril Conner, was originally a barrister, while her mother was Marie Stephanie Douglass. Both came from Newcastle upon Tyne. Penelope Gilliatt herself was brought up in Northumberland, where her father was director of the BBC in the North East from 1938–41, and she retained a lifelong love of the Roman Wall country. John Osborne, for a time her husband, once said in answer to her phone-call, that he was giving his all "for the burghers of Geordieland, your compatriots."

Gilliatt wrote several novels, including One by One and A State of Change. Her short stories were collected in Nobody's Business.

As a film critic, Gilliatt wrote numerous reviews for The Observer before she began a column that ran for years in The New Yorker, in which she alternated for six-month intervals with Pauline Kael as that publication's chief film critic. Gilliatt's column ran from late spring to early fall, and Kael's for the remainder of the year. Her career as a film critic for The New Yorker ended in 1979 after it was determined that a Profile she had written of Graham Greene contained unattributed passages taken from a piece about Greene that had appeared in The Nation two years before. The fact checker had warned editor William Shawn of the plagiarism but Shawn published the article anyway. Following its appearance, Greene said that Gilliatt’s ”so-called Profile” of him was “inaccurate” and the product of a “rather wild imagination.”

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Mar 25, 1932
Also known as
  • Penelope Ann Douglass Conner
  • England
May 9, 1993

on July 23, 2013


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