Losey was born in La Crosse, Wisconsin. He studied medicine, but got involved in directing drama in college. He was politically active throughout the 30s and involved with a number of left-wing theatre groups which flourished throughout the Depression. This directing experience took him to Hollywood. He signed a contract with RKO in 1947 and in the same year directed a well-received production of Galileo starring Charles Laughton.
His first film under this contract was The Boy With Green Hair and this tale of a community hounding someone because of their difference would soon become prophetic as the Communist Witchhunts instigated by McCarthy got underway. Losey, because of his views and associates, was an obvious target. He avoided having to testify to the HUAC because he was out of the country filming, but when he came back he found that he was effectively unemployable.
Britain came to the rescue: Anthony Asquith was helpful in sorting the way through the necessary bureaucracy, and the normally-obstructive trades unions were happy to turn a blind eye to any irregularities in the status of this avowed Marxist on the run from US oppression. The star of his first film, The Sleeping Tiger, was Dirk Bogarde and they would later go on to make their best films together. Meantime there were several unexciting projects to get through.
The film that made the difference was The Criminal which took him out of hack work and into more artistic realms. The Servant was a huge critical and commercial success. Not only was Losey reunited with Dirk Bogarde but the film marked the first of three Harold Pinter screenplays he directed: films which would be the bedrock of Losey's reputation. After the last of these, The Go-Between, his career faltered.
In the mid-70s, thanks to a change in the tax law, he became liable to pay UK tax at 62.5%. So the Marxist became a tax exile and moved to France. He returned to the UK for his final film, Steaming.
Apart from Hitchcock and possibly Lean, Joseph Losey is the British filmmaker most feted by academic writers. They find his work an endlessly fascinating exemplar of the auteur theory. The general public were far less receptive to his work and for every The Servant there's a Boom! or a The Assassination of Trotsky - films which flop on every normal level.
|1939||Pete Roleum and His Cousins (US - short)|
|1940||A Child Went Forth (US - short)|
|1941||Youth Gets a Break (US - short)|
|1945||A Gun in His Hand (US - short)|
|1948||The Boy With Green Hair (US)|
|1950||The Lawless (US)|
|1951||The Prowler (US)|
|1951||The Big Night (US)|
|1952||Stranger on the Prowl (It)|
|1954||The Sleeping Tiger|
|1955||A Man on the Beach (short)|
|1956||The Intimate Stranger|
|1957||Time Without Pity|
|1957||The Gypsy and the Gentleman|
|1960||First on the Road (short)|
|1964||King and Country|
|1970||Figures in a Landscape|
|1972||The Assassination of Trotsky (It, GB, Fr)|
|1973||A Doll's House (GB, Fr)|
|1975||The Romantic Englishwoman|
|1976||Mr Klein (Fr, It)|
|1978||Les Route du Sud (Fr)|
|1979||Don Giovanni (Fr, It, Ger)|
|1982||The Trout (Fr)|
Joseph Losey at Amazon UK
Joseph Losey at Amazon US