Influential dramatist and director Harold Pinter has died at 78 after a long battle with cancer.

The London-born Pinter, who came from a modest Jewish family, began writing poetry and fiction at a young age, turning to drama in the mid-50s. After being championed by a number of critics, he became a pioneering member of the so-called "Angry Young Men," who revolutionized British drama with a combination of absurdism and politically-charged realism. In plays like “The Birthday Party,” “The Homecoming” and nearly thirty others - in addition to numerous film scripts - Pinter's name became synonymous with acerbic dialogue, quiet menace and his signature pregnant pauses. Pinter was also an outspoken liberal who battled censorship as a young artist and in later years was vocally critical of U.S. foreign policy. He is survived by his second wife, the writer Lady Antonia Fraser. [New York Times]