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The Master Builder (Broadway Theatre Archive)
The Master Builder
Broadway Theatre Archive
Actors: Phyllis Love, E.G. Marshall, James Paterson, Joanna Roos, Lois Smith
Director: John Stix
Genres: Drama, Television, Musicals & Performing Arts
NR     2003     1hr 43min

Henrik Ibxsen's tale of an aging builder reaching for love, while clinging to a career on the vergeo fo collapse is astonishing for its power. This outstanding production stars E.G. Marshall, Lois Smith, Phyllis Love and F...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Phyllis Love, E.G. Marshall, James Paterson, Joanna Roos, Lois Smith
Director: John Stix
Creators: Lewis Freedman, Henrik Ibsen
Genres: Drama, Television, Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: Drama, Television, Broadway Theatre Archive
Studio: Kultur Video
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 10/14/2003
Original Release Date: 03/21/1960
Theatrical Release Date: 03/21/1960
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 1hr 43min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

"The younger generation comes bearing retribution."
Mary Whipple | New England | 09/11/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Produced in 1960 by David Susskind, this Broadway Theater Archive production of one of Ibsen's most famous plays focuses on an older man's fear that he will be replaced by the younger generation before he has been able to reconcile his success with his personal sacrifices. Halvard Solness (E. G. Marshall) is a Master Builder who has built much of the small town in which he lives. Arrogant, manipulative, and often paranoid, there is little he will not do to appear in control.

When Hilde Wangel (Lois Smith) suddenly knocks on his door, the younger generation arrives. Exuberant and flirtatious, Hilde reminds Halvard that exactly ten years ago, when she was the twelve-year-old daughter of a client, he called her his little princess and promised to buy her a kingdom. Ingratiating herself with Halvard, Hilde listens as he reveals his guilt about his success, his fear of godly retribution, and his simultaneous belief that he is one of the "special people" who can bring his desires to fruition through the summoning of demons, "called 'luck' by others." Regarding herself as the person who will free him from guilt, Hilde urges the acrophobic Halvard to place a wreath at the top of the tower on the house he has built for his wife-a symbolic celebration of a new kind of life through Hilde, building castles in the air.

Though Robinson and Smith portray their roles with passion, their characters are not always realistic, and the psychological grounding seems uncertain, lacking unity. Their relationship, because of differences in age, background, and personalities, is unsettling and uncomfortable for the viewer, and the actors themselves do not seem to connect in this supposed relationship. The formality of E. G. Robinson matched with the bizarre flirtatiousness of Lois Smith feels more like a dramatic conceit than the natural attraction it is supposed to be. Halvard's seemingly bloodless wife (Joanna Roos), fully aware of the growing attraction between Halvard and Hilde, vividly conveys her frustration with her life and her wayward husband, and her behavior at the end of the play is touching--filled with a kind of hopeless sadness.

Set in Halvard's house, this black and white production depends on the viewer's acceptance of the characters and their peculiar interactions, since there is virtually no change of scenery and no color to provide distractions. The play, directed by John Stix and Richard Lukin, is filled with strong emotion, but it carries a pessimistic and ambiguous message conveyed through characters who are not quite believable. Mary Whipple