About Harold Brighouse
<The Times July 26, 1958>
MR. H. BRIGHOUSE
AUTHOR OF "HOBSON'S CHOICE"
Mr. Harold Brighouse, the playwright and author, well known in earlier years as a leading figure among the "Manchester school" of dramatists, collapsed and died in London yesterday on the eve of his seventy-sixth birthday.
Together with Stanley Houghton, Allan Monkhouse and others, Harold Brighouse in the years before and immediately after the War of 1914-18 helped to put Manchester on the theatrical map, and in so doing contributed to the real (if minor) influence brought to bear on English drama of the period by the productions of Miss Horniman's repertory theatre in that city during 1907-21.
It is more accurate, perhaps, to speak of the "Manchester drama" than of a Manchester school of dramatists; for what Brighouse and the others did was to apply their minds and imagination to the distinctive verities of life and character in Manchester in order to transfer them in appropriate terms to the stage. In the result, at any rate in the earlier phase, they achieved a type of realism, at once homely and luminous, that entered closely into the texture of the "new drama" of the period before 1914. Admittedly the realism hovered now and then on the edge of the bleakly insignificant, but for the most part it had a singular force of veracity and comic illumination.
Born in Eccles, Lancashire, on July 26, 1882, and educated at Manchester Grammar School, he began work with a cotton firm but gravitated towards Miss Horniman's theatre and was writing plays soon after it had been founded. They were generally produced for the first time in Manchester, at any rate until 1921, after which they were commonly first performed by the LIverpool repertory company. His earliest plays were "Dealing in Futures" (1909) and "Graft" (1911), after which came "The Odd Man Out", a gay if slightly obvious comedy, which was produced at the Royalty Theatre in London in 1912. "The Game" (1913), which recalled Houghton's "Trust the People", was followed, two years later, by "The Hillarys", written in collaboration with Houghton, and then, in the next year, Brighouse scored an indubitable hit with "Hobson's Choice", a richly funny and rumbustious Lancashire comedy of an amiable bully, drunkard, and skinflint and his managing daughter. No one who saw him in the play is likely to forget Norman McKinnel's performance as old Hobson. A film was made of it, it has remained a favourite of provincial repertory, and it was revived in the West End as recently as 1952.
Other plays that followed iincluded "Other Times" (1920) a mid-Victorian period piece; "Mary's John" (1924), a witty comedy, though one which did not quite maintain its promise, of a young man from the provinces who planned to take LOndon by storm; "What's Bred in the Bone" (1927), another comedy of Lancashire character; and a not too successful piece entitled "It's a Gamble" (1928).
Besides full-length plays Brighouse also wrote many one-act plays, several of which were outstandingly popular with amateur theatrical bodies. He was at the same time author of some half a dozen novels of which the earliest, "Fossie for Short", appeared in 1917, and which included one he made in 1927 out of "Hindle Wakes". A rather reticent autobiography, "What I Have Had", appeared in 1952.
During the Second World War he was attached for a time to the intelligence staff at the Air Ministry. In later years he was a member of the literary staff of the Manchester Guardian, and he was chairman of the dramatic committee of the Authors' Society in 1930-31.