Often regarded as second only to Shakespeare, Molière remains one of the greats of European literature, known particularly for a series of comedies that puncture bourgeois pretension. He collaborated several times with Lully (eventually falling out), with Charpentier, and with his longstanding colleague Corneille. Molière, his close contemporary La Fontaine, and the younger Boileau (both friend and supporter) and Racine, were celebrated as the so-called Quartet of the rue du Vieux Colombier. Having premiered Racine’s first play, Molière’s relations with him went disastrously wrong. He died following an onstage haemorrhage while playing the hypochondriac in his own Le Malade imaginaire.
Pinter is generally recognised as the most influential post-war English dramatist, writing to disturb, not to please. Beckett became both friend and mentor, a role Pinter later played for Mamet. Always politicised, he went to Turkey with his friend Miller to investigate the torture of writers, read a defiant lecture of Rushdie’s, and joined Chomsky in berating US foreign policy. He wrote screenplays for Kazan, Schrader, Reisz and (especially – their collaboration was described as ‘perfect’) Losey. Osborne, Mamet and Stoppard were frequent correspondents as well as friends. Pinter underestimated the demands of portraiture, Freud’s painting abandoned after two sittings.
Welles imposed himself on screen, stage and radio. He said Ellington was the only genius he’d met, other than himself. Wilder helped him get started; Wright worked with him on a triumphant stage production. By the time they met, H. G. Wells had softened his antagonism to Welles’ famous adaptation of his novel. Huston directed him, as did Zinnemann, Nichols, Chabrol and most famously Reed — the over-sensitive Welles initially refusing to be filmed in the Vienna sewers. Armstrong knew him and collaborated on a project (ultimately compromised) about jazz history. He corresponded with Eisenstein, and as a stage act sawed Dietrich in half.
Garrick was a pupil at Johnson’s academy in Lichfield, before mentor and friend went to London together. He joined Johnson and Reynolds’ Literary Club, elected on sufferance with Boswell; Goldsmith was a fellow-member. He had a long, easy but never intimate friendship with Sterne. Goldsmith and Hume were guests when he hosted a supper for Rousseau. Adam improved Garrick’s house and designed a new facade for the Theatre Royal. Diderot and Grimm met him at d’Holbach’s; Grimm said he was the only actor to meet the imagination’s demands.