Dent, (1905- ?) born in Maybole, quotes he was
born there because his north-country parents had chosen to go and live there for
the reason that it was in the heart of the Burns Country. His mother died when
he was only two years old. But his father brought him up to love poetry and
music, and read to him Burns (as well as Shakespeare, Tennyson and Whitman) even
before he had learned to read and write. Educated at
Carrick Academy he went to
Glasgow University aged only 16, in 1921 and, after making a false start in
medicine, did well in English, French and Italian; but left for London in 1926
without securing a degree. He became a dramatic critic the hard way,
apprenticing himself to a master of the craft, James Agate, for 15 years in all.
He was London critic of The (Manchester) Guardian from 1935 till 1943,
and dramatic critic of the News Chronicle from 1945 till its sudden
demise in 1960. He worked in broadcasting and was the regular film critic of the
Illustrated London News.
He was the text-editor and text-adviser
of Sir Laurence Olivier's three Shakespeare films, Henry V,
Hamlet, and Richard III, and he celebrated the quarter-centenary by
publishing a quiz book called How Well Do You Know Your Shakespeare? He
did a five month tour of America in 1953-4 and returned to America (1966-7) to
lecture on "The Fine Art of Criticism" at Toronto, Harvard, Yale, and
New York. Amongst other publications are Preludes and studies, Nocturnes
& Rhapsodies, My Dear America, The Life of Mrs. Patrick Campbell. The
great loves of his were Shakespeare and Max Beerbohm, Hardy and Dickens, Mozart
and Bach, and of course Robert Burns.
In 1960 he was living in Beaconsfield, Bucks.
sketch contributed by Cooper Hay of Cooper
Books) (photograph courtesy of Ayr Advertiser)
from a 1966 Carrick Academy school magazine written by Alan Dent regarding
accounts written by Robert Louis Stevenson and John Keats about their travels
through Carrick and about Maybole. (note: large file 184k)
of the tobacco shop "Dents"
in Maybole owned by Alan's father.
from the Ayr Advertiser circa 1975)
EXILE GIFTS BOOK COLLECTION TO ACADEMY
UNEXPECTED WINDFALL in the shape of a 3,000 volume library will be coming Carrick
Academy’s way some time in the future. The gift is the private collection of
books of well-known author and drama critic Alan Dent who met the rector of his
former school, Mr David Conn, last week and made the offer. Alan, who has been
making sentimental journey to his native town from his home in Beaconsfield,
Buckinghamshire, was pleased to discover that Mr. Conn is also a South Ayrshireman
and comes from Colmonell. When the two men met in the school last week it was
the first occasion that Alan had set foot in the present school. His school
career began in 1910 in the former Carrick Academy which was in the heart of the
town and which was destroyed by fire in 1919.
of the many books, which were lost in that fire was a one-volume copy of
Shakespeare’s, works which was one of Alan’s most treasured possessions.
book was the spark, which kindled a lifelong interest for Alan in the Bard of
Avon, and he was possibly written more than any other living writer about
Shakespeare. But he has managed to crowd into his 69 years a few other
interests. After studying medicine at Glasgow University in the 1920s he went to
London and there began a writing career, which made him one of the foremost
drama critics of his time. He worked for many years as secretarial aid to the
late James Agate who was one of Fleet Street’s literary giants in the 1920s
and 1940s. Agate, who died almost exactly 27 years ago, is remembered by many as
the book reviewer of the Daily Express, but for Alan Dent he was the man who
encouraged him, if encouragement were needed, towards an even deeper interest
and study of the works of William Shakespeare.
his journalistic career Alan was for many years the film critic of the London
Illustrated News. But it is as drama critic of the now defunct News Chronicle
that he is best known. In his News Chronicle days he used to make a pilgrimage
each summer to his native town of Maybole to renew old acquaintances while
visiting the Edinburgh Festival for his paper.
galore have, come from Alan’s gifted pen. There have, been books on famous
theatrical personalities like Mrs. Patrick Campbell and Vivien Leigh, but mostly
he has written on the absorbing interest of his life, the man who, like Saint
Paul, was said to be all things to all men —William ‘Shakespeare.
is his 70th year Alan confesses that it is rather more difficult for him today
to create the mood and the atmosphere for creative writing work. He feels like
the Roman statesman, soldier and ‘author, Cato who regretted only three things
in his life — that he had ever travelled by sea when he could have gone by
land; that he had ever trusted a woman with a secret; and that he had gone a day
longer than necessary without making out his will.
has made out his will and it includes the gift of his well-loved library to his
old school. But ‘he has jokingly warned Mr. Conn that It may be the year 2000
before Carrick Academy eventually receives the books.
the Dent Collection eventually finds its way into the school at Kirkoswald, Road
it will form the heart of a school library, which few towns in Ayrshire can
(from a letter
written by Alan Dent, quoted in The Later Ego by James Agate, London, 1951)
allegro took me straight back to childhood and gave me in turn the rusty
windlass of a well, the interlinking noises of a goods train that is being
shunted, then the belly rumbling of a little boy acutely ill after a raid on an
orchard, and finally the singular alarmed noises of poultry being worried to
death by a scotch terrier. The second movement gave me continuously and
throughout its short length the noise of a November wind in telegraph poles on a
lonely country road. The third movement began with a dog howling at midnight,
proceeded to imitate the regurgitations of the less refined or
lower-middle-class type of water closet cistern, modulating thence into the mass
snoring of a naval dormitory around the dawn, and concluded inconsequentially
with the cello reproducing the screech of an ungreased wheelbarrow. The fourth
movement took me straight back to the noises I made myself, on wet days indoors,
at the age of six, by stretching and plucking a piece of elastic. And the fifth
movement reminded me immediately and persistently and vividly of something I
have never thought of since the only time I heard it: the noise of a Zulu
village in the Glasgow Exhibition, a hubbub all the more singular, because it
had a background of skirling highland bagpipes. Both noises emerged in this
final movement of this Fourth Quartet of Béla Bartók."
Laurence Olivier, Reginald Beck; PRODUCER: Laurence Olivier, Filippo Del Giudice;
SCREENPLAY: Alan Dent, Laurence Olivier; STUDIO: Rank; VIDEO: Paramount;
RUNNING TIME: 127 mm.
V. Alt. title: THE CHRONICLE HISTORY OF KING HENRY THE FIFT. U.K. Two Cities,
1944. Dir/prod: Laurence Olivier. Photo: Robert Krasker. Mu: William Walton.
Text ed.: Alan Dent. Cast: Laurence Olivier, Robert Newton, Renee
Asherson, Felix Aylmer. 3 cassettes, ca. 137 min., sd., color, 3/4"
Videocassette. VBB 3375-3377 4 reels, ca. 137 min., sd., color, 16mm Reference
print. FDA 1849-1852 Adapted from the first folio edition of Shakespeare's play
performed in 1600, The Chronicle History of King Henry the Fifth with his Battell
Fought at Agincourt in France.
(Universal, 1948). Director: Laurence Olivier. Writer: Alan Dent, adapted
from William Shakespeare. Cast: Laurence Olivier, Eileen Herlie, Basil Sydney,
Jean Simmons. (153 min., sd., b&w, 35mm; LC Collection, courtesy Universal).
Olivier’s assured adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragedy of the Danish
prince who is driven to avenge his father’s murder. The dead king and the
usurper become positive and negative aspects of the father figure. Olivier
amplifies the Oedipal nature of the troubled Dane’s predicament by
dwelling on the carnal kisses which Hamlet exchanges with his mother, making
the film a clear example of how Freud has influenced our reading of familiar
A postcard postmarked
London SW1 and dated 30th March 1965 and addressed to: Alan Dent Esq 85
Aylesbury End Beaconsfield Bucks from Vivien Olivier, sign Vivien. The message
reads: Tues Hello-How thoughtful of you-v. nice indeed. I found it. How happy I
would have been to see you at A????maque!! How happy I shall be when I see you
again. Love ever Vivien.
(November 5, 1913–July 7, 1967) was an English actress who was born Vivian Mary
Hartley in Darjeeling, India. She and her parents later moved to England, where
young Leigh grew up. She attended the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Roehampton,
England, along with fellow actress-to-be Maureen O'Sullivan. She was married in
1932 to Herbert Leigh Holman, and they had a daughter, Suzanne, in 1933. Leigh's
career began on the stage. Her first play was The Green Sash, though it was Mask
of Virtue that really brought her to stardom. In 1935, she began her film career
with such movies as The Village Squire, Things are Looking Up, and Look Up and
Laugh. Leigh is best known, however, for her role of Scarlett O'Hara in the
American film Gone With the Wind (1939), for which she won an Academy Award
for Best Actress. In 1940, Leigh arranged for a divorce from Holman and married
British theatre star Laurence Olivier. The actress died of chronic tuberculosis
in her London home. She was cremated and her ashes were scattered on the lake at
Tickerage Mill, near Blackboys, Sussex. Leigh has a star on the Hollywood Walk
of Fame at 6773 Hollywood Blvd.