Rodney Ackland was an actor, screenwriter, and playwright whose work peaked in the 1930s to 1950s. Born in 1908 in Southend, Essex, he was the son of a mantle manufacturer and jewelry dealer who emigrated from Warsaw and married a musical star.
Ackland is best known as an actor for his work with Alfred Hitchcock (The Skin Game, 1931; Number Seventeen, 1932) and as an adaptor (Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, 1945). In 1942, he was nominated for an Academy Award for his screenplay of 49th Parallel, which was released in the United States as The Invaders.
In the theatre, notable productions include the two musicals Blossom Time (1942) at the Lyric Theatre and The Belle of New York (1943) at the Whitehall Theatre. The expensive production of The Pink Room or The Escapists, which premiered in 1952, stifled Ackland’s theatre career. The play, set in a seedy Soho club, was rewritten and retitled by Ackland (Absolute Hell) and revived in 1988 in a successful production at the Orange Tree Theatre. It was subsequently adapted and directed for BBC Television by Anthony Page in 1991 (starring Dame Judi Dench) in a production that was also seen on stage four years later at the Royal National Theatre (1995).
Ackland died in 1991.
—. Absolute Hell. London: Oberon Books, 1996.
—. Plays One: The Dark River; After October. London: Oberon Books, 1997.
—. Plays Two: Smithereens; Strange Orchestra; Before the Party; The Old Ladies. London: Oberon, 2001.