John Mortimer was hardly a household name in the U.S. But in the UK, this barrister, playwright and screenwriter was a great figure in the ongoing war for freedom of expression by artists and writers. Sir John Mortimer died at the age of 85 on January 16.
Mortimer used his best legal skills the defend the respected Penguin books brand back in the 1960's when the UK government attempted to prosecute this book company on obscenity charges for the publication of D.H. Lawrence's classic, LADY CHATTERLEY'S LOVER. In the 1970's, when the leftist underground newspaper OZ attacked right wing Prime Minister Edward Heath, and Heath's government apparently used obscenity charges in an attempt to silence the paper, Mortimer again defended in another high profile obscenity case. Heath was also a disaster for the working people of the UK as well. But a seven week strike by the miners union helped to bring down the right wing Heath government and get this self-righteous twit out of power.
Mortimer not only championed the rights of those who chose to be critical of the government in the UK, but helped to make the UK a little more open to artists, writers and others who lived in this nation with artistic freedom often curtailed by the government or other moral do-gooders. Without a Bill Of Rights like the U.S., writers and artists worked in a legal environment with far less freedom to publish than in many Western nations.
On one hand, Mortimer, who was politically left-leaning and a staunch Labour Party supporter, was a great and eloquent advocate in court defending the right to free expression of others, but also became a great playwright and author in his own right, publishing many plays and books. In 1981, Mortimer was well known for his excellent British TV adaption screenplay of BRIDESHEAD REVISTIED. A long running TV series, RUMPOLE OF THE BAILEY, with the unique character of a unusual defense attorney was another fine production of Mortimer, who often jokingly referred to himself as a "champagne socialist".
Sir Mortimer was a true knight in the ongoing battle for artists seeking free expression, battling intellectual pygmies who want to use government or the courts to control what artists and writers may pen. Mortimer was indeed a fine foot soldier in this ongoing battle. In this nation his keen legal and intellectual skills could have really been used to beat back the social retards like the James Dobsons. Tony Perkins and Robert Peters, who all appear to have been born without any brains or regard for the American Bill Of Rights.
Mortimer fought the good fight and added to the culture of Britain by his excellent writings as well as TV classics. Well done, Sir Mortimer. Rest In Peace.
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