Self-Portrait, © Lewis Morley

Lewis Morley describes his experiences meeting Joe on the set of Loot and photographing publicity shots of him for the US run of Entertaining Mr Sloane

See some of the portraits of Joe here

Photographer Lewis Morley wrote of Joe in his memoirs 'Black and White Lies'
(ETT Imprint, Sydney 1992)
'Black and White Lies' has the insider view of the swinging sixties, including key figures from London's theatre, film, fashion and music such as Christine Keeler, Joe Orton, Twiggy,
Jean Shrimpton, Michael Caine, Peter O'Toole,
Clint Eastwood, Truffaut and Dali!
For more information on this book visit



On one of these regular excursions I waited behind a couple of young waiters, one of whom worked in The Establishment, unavoidably eavesdropping on their conversation.

‘They say his mate bashed his head in with a hammer, and the only way they could identify him was by the tattoo of a bird on his belly.’
‘Didn’t think he liked birds?’
‘No, you prick….was one of them with wings.’
‘You mean an angel?’
‘Naw….a bloody swallow….you know what I mean.’
‘Yeah! What’s that they say? One swallow don’t make a summer.’
‘You can say that again.’
‘Bet he had more than one swallow. Know what I mean?’
‘Come off it! Show a bit of respect!’

They made their purchases and shuffled out. I think in a funny sort of way they had shown their respect, by knowing about him. Joe would probably have liked that. I returned to my studio, smoked a few cigarettes and wrote a poem about him. Joe Orton would have hated that.

Portait of the Artist as a Young Man........
He was sprawled out on the front seat of the stall, an odalisque, more mannered than a Matisse. His playing was just a little too method, a little too relaxed, hinting at a tension not quite overcome. His arms, which rested on the backs of the red velveteen seats, were encased in black leather, studded with chromium–plated, round headed rivets, like those on an overstuffed Victorian settee. A matching black leather cap rounded off the outfit.

Who was this sheep in wolf’s clothing? I mused. The aggressive attire seemed out of place. Here was a very young head on very young, one could almost say, delicate, shoulders.

His head was tilted back to take in the surroundings from the low vantage point he had assumed. He regarded me with a challenging stare from beneath the peak of the leather cap that sat forward on his brow, covering his forehead. The eyes were dark and shiny, beady…like an inquisitive fieldmouse. Still reclining, he held out his hand and we were introduced by Peter Wood, who was to direct the play Orton had written.

After a couple of muttered acknowledgements, he resumed his original position and I continued my discussion with the director concerning the front-of-house and publicity photographs for this, the first production of Loot. If the names of the cast who were appearing in the production had been invented by Orton, I wouldn’t have been surprised, excepting that they were established actors, Ian McShane, Geraldine McEwen, Duncan McCrae, John Barry, and finally, the most bizarre member of the cast with the most ordinary name, Kenneth Williams. I was surprised the production hadn’t been dubbed McLoot!

In later years, after the death of Orton, Kenneth Williams directed a more successful production of Loot, but this first production, like one of the characters in the play, died a death and was shuffled around, willy-nilly, for quite a while.

I had also photographed the first production of Entertaining Mr Sloane, at the Arts Theatre the previous year, without having met the author. Its favourable reception by both critic and public had ensured its transfer to a larger West End theatre, followed by a long run.

Prior to its proposed transfer and opening in the United States, I was asked to take some special publicity photographs of Joe. They were to be body-building type shots, as he wanted it to be known that he was the fittest, best built playwright in the western hemisphere. In the interim I had met Orton at the Loot photo call.,,,.contd

Image © Lewis Morley   Text © Lewis Morley with kind permission  

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