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Influential Nobel-laureate Playwright Pinter Dies at 78

Harold Pinter, the Nobel Prize-winning playwright who has been lauded as the most influential dramatist of his generation, died Wednesday after battling cancer. Jeffrey Brown discusses Pinter's life and work with theater critic Ben Brantley.

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  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    And finally tonight, remembering playwright Harold Pinter, who died Wednesday in London at age 78. We begin with a report from Benjamin Cohen of Independent Television News.

  • BENJAMIN COHEN:

    Over the years, he evoked as much controversy as adulation. His style became famous as much for the pauses as for the words.

    In 2005, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. In its citation, the committee said Harold Pinter restored theater to its basic elements.

  • HAROLD PINTER, playwright:

    I've often been asked how my plays come about. I cannot say. Nor can I ever sum up my plays, except to say that this is what happened. That is what they said. That is what they did.

  • BENJAMIN COHEN:

    Pinter was prolific: 29 stage plays, 26 screenplays. In 1957, his first full-length play, "The Birthday Party," was panned, closing after just four days. But by the time this TV version was aired, Pinter's mastery of the drama in everyday language and the politics in personal life won him huge audiences, and he was far more than just a great writer.

    SAM MARLOWE, theater critic: He was also a terrific actor, a wonderful commentator, political activist, and a wonderful writer of screenplays, too. But I think it's the theater that will really miss him.

    I think we have whole generations of playwrights who simply would not exist in the same way as they do had it not been for Harold Pinter.

  • BENJAMIN COHEN:

    While within the world of theater he became an establishment figure, politically he was a radical, most recently campaigning against the Iraq war.

    Harold Pinter never seemed to tire of work. Despite throat cancer, in 2006 he returned to his first love, acting, starring in Samuel Beckett's "Krapp's Last Tape."

    Harold Pinter had an uncompromising image. He said that, although he could never write a happy play, he had been able to enjoy a happy life.