Screen legend Laurence Olivier (Wuthering Heights) delivers an OscarĀ(r)-nominated*,"smashing performance" (Time) in this riveting film that brought him his "greatest contemporary role" (Pauline Kael). Co-starring Albert F... more »inney and Alan Bates (in their screen debuts), this powerful, thought-provoking and vividly theatrical film, true to its name, is supremely entertaining. Career first. Everything else second. According to vaudevillian Archie Rice, the show must go oneven if it means stringing along his fellow performers, exploiting the hopes and money of a starlet and neglecting his own family. This is Archie's world but not everyone wants to live in it. His only daughter (Joan Plowright) will do everything she can to break through and bring him around if only she can make him listen. *1960: Actor« less
"That's what has-been vaudevillian Laurence Olivier says to daughter Joan Plowright when commenting on his frustrating, failed life in "The Entertainer", and when he says it and you look, by golly if he doesn't look dead indeed.This movie makes me uncomfortable and I really don't like to watch it, but that cannot make me deny that it is one of Olivier's greatest jobs. I think part of the way he can convey this male menopause pathos derived from his own life at the time, the way Gable's own tragedies inform "Homecoming". At this point, yes, Olivier had won an Oscar and gained a knighthood, but his personal life was a shambles. He was married to Vivien Leigh who was sickly and suffering from mental illness. He once described it to Lauren Bacall in this fashion: The first ten years were heaven, the last hell. The strain was beginning to show in Larry, and that's what is communicated in his depiction of Archie Rice, the entertainer who hasn't got any joy in his own life. Archie's made a mess of things: he's a bankrupt, he's got a wife who's stupid and tiresome, he's got to play in these tawdry seaside resorts. He manages to seduce a naive young girl, and is hoping perhaps to shake off both the wife and this bad luck that's been plaguing him, but everything always falls through. Life can't help being lousy, I guess is the message of "The Entertainer", and does one heck of a job showing us the seamy side of a two-bit talent's life.Of course, the great irony is that in real life, Olivier began an affair with the actress playing his daughter, Joan Plowright. What might have been just another example of life imitating art--of Olivier playing out the seducer element of "The Entertainer"--actually worked out to his benefit. The result was the end of his dismal marriage to Vivien Leigh and a new marriage, now to the years-younger Plowright, with whom he had two children (something that never happened with Leigh), and a breath of fresh air into his performing life as he staged more Shakepeare et al. with this new Lady Olivier. All of that is why I can stomach watching "The Entertainer", you know: Thank God Olivier had better things ahead of him after all than poor Archie Rice.So, if you can appreciate verismo in film and would like to see the English-speaking world's greatest actor play against type, take a seat at "The Entertainer" and count your blessings that you can leave your woes AT the theatre when you leave."
I know what you're thinking:
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Hmm -- a movie called *The Entertainer*, with a smiling Laurence Olivier on the DVD's cover. He looks like he wants to give us all a big hug. There are even chorus girls dancing behind him. This looks like fun!" -- Nope: it's one of the most depressing movies ever made. Well, there IS some fun to be had by watching Olivier totally INHABIT the character of Archie Rice: truly a case of the 20th Century's greatest actor playing one of the best roles in 20th Century drama. Let it be said at once that this is Olivier's best film performance, and never mind all those Shakespeares. (He thought so too, calling the role of Archie Rice his all-time favorite and the one he most closely related to.) The movie is based on the original stage play, written by the original Angry Young Man, the great playwright John Osborne. The superficial thing to say about *The Entertainer* is that Archie Rice symbolizes England itself after World War II. This story encapsulates like no other (including Osborne's earlier *Look Back in Anger*) that "British post-War malaise" you've heard so much about. Much like England in 1960, the man harbors illusions of grandeur based on a speciously "glorious" past. And like the country, Archie is in reality outdated, irrelevant, dingy, unpleasant, past his prime, desperate, pathetic -- in a phrase, he's very much like the sleazy seaside resort town wherein he plies his trade as a vaudevillian. And you can draw an easy parallel between Archie's attempts to keep his bankrupt show afloat with England's senseless, imperial involvement in Palestine at this time. (Or was it Suez? -- it's been a while since I've seen the movie. In any case, it was someplace where they no longer belonged.) But these exercises are for film theory class. The real stuff is in the creation of the wonderfully nasty character. Archie is a REAL character with depth, unique mannerisms and diction, and plausible motives. He has a history. He's believable. But as brilliantly as the character is written, it's Olivier who brings him to searing life. When Olivier delivers Archie's "goodnight" address at the end of the film, you know you're watching a high moment in cinema. Only a great actor with decades of experience could deliver these lines with such withering weight. Archie's divers failures are horrible, absurd, and total -- but Olivier is defiant. We find ourselves grudgingly admiring this rat-like defiance, because we love fighters. And great actors."
John Osborne, Lawrence Olivier, Tony Richardson
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 09/08/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Why should I care, Why should I let it touch me? Why shouldn't I sit down and try to let it pass over me. Why should they stare, why should I let it get me... What's the use of despair if they call you a square? You're a long time dead like my old pal Fred So why oh why should I Bother to care?"
Archie Rice sings this depressing and cynical second-rate song as part of his depressingly bad music hall routine in The Entertainer, a depressing but skillfully acted movie. Archie Rice (Lawrence Olivier) is a third-rate, aging vaudeville entertainer, headlining his own show in the run-down English seaside resort of Morecomb. He's just about at the end of his string, playing to half-empty, bored audiences, running up debt, and desperate to stay in the business. He has a wife, Phoebe (Brenda De Banzie) who loves him and drinks too much, a daughter, Jean (Joan Plowright), who also loves him but has no illusions about him, two sons, Mick (Albert Finney), who joined the Army and is being shipped off to Suez, and Frank (Alan Bates), who works for his father in the music hall, and his own father, Billy Rice (Roger Livesey), once a headliner but now aging and retired. In the course of the movie Archie one way or another uses them, fails them or both.
The Entertainer is grim stuff. It's redeemed, I think, by two elements. First, it represents the reaction in the Fifties by British playwrights such as John Osborne to the polished, upper-class and unrealistic theater in Britain following WWII. Playwrights such as Christopher Fry and Terrence Rattigan produced hugely popular works that many thought were out of touch with reality. Then Osborne and others came along with what critics called the kitchen sink school...slices of working life, puncturing British pretensions of class and power. Watched in this context, the movie brings a lot to the table.
The second element is the acting. Olivier was the epitome of polished British theater. When he agreed to play The Entertainer on stage he instantly legitimized the style and he thoroughly revamped his own reputation. Archie Rice is a third-rate singer, dancer and comedian. "Well, you're a lovely lot tonight," he says during his act, "a lovely lot tonight. I've played in front of them all, you know...The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales...and, oh, what's the name of that other pub?" Privately, he confesses to his daughter that "I never solved a problem in my life." Olivier, who could sing and dance very well when needed, is awful and perfect. In a rare moment of honesty, Rice points out to his daughter that he is dead behind his eyes. Olivier captures that flat moment. He also has a whole troupe of excellent actors backing him up, from such experienced hands as Roger Livesey and Brenda De Banzie, to two actors making their screen debuts, Alan Bates and Albert Finney. Joan Plowright, like Olivier reprising her stage role, is excellent as his daughter...loving him and pitying him probably too much.
As something of an historical artifact of British drama and as a source of pleasure in watching skilled actors earn their money, I think The Entertainer is well worth viewing. For many of us, it's worth purchasing.
There are no extras. The DVD picture looks just fine."
Don't clap too loud, it's an old building
C. O. DeRiemer | 06/01/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"That line occurs in the play, I believe, but not in the film. Or did I miss it? In any case, it doesn't really matter, since this is a production where the brilliance of the writing is only matched by the brilliance of the performance. I defy anyone to watch this merciless analysis of national character, at a particular moment in British history, and remain unscathed. It is painfully true, and painfully ugly. The war had been won, but everything else was lost. At the time the play was written, it seemed that nothing remained, bar grimy exhaustion. By 1960, however, spirits were recovering. The work remains a historic document, recording the bleakest and most bitter hour. This is certainly one of the purest records ever committed to posterity, and anyone interested in knowing what things were like in Britain in the 1950s will find them here. An absolute masterpiece."
David Baldwin | Philadelphia,PA USA | 12/30/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
""The Entertainer" concerns itself with a sub-mediocre music hall entertainer, Archie Rice(Laurence Olivier), who in order to stay in the spotlight will do anything despite the ruination of the lives of those closest to him. Olivier plays this character perfectly where the temptation to ham it up in the role of a sleazy entertainer he gives just the correct amount of understatement. Also notable in the role of Rice's social worker daughter is Joan Plowright, who would become the future Mrs. Olivier. Albert Finney distinguishes himself in the one-scene part of Rice's doomed paratrooper son. Why I do not rate this film higher is that it is so unremittingly bleak and I just did not find the story that compelling to warrant this tone. This film in my mind is a dated artifact from the British new-wave of the late fifties and early sixties when this type of realism was in vogue. The film certainly captures the seediness of the world it is trying to capture. To me it stands as a curio from mid-fifties Britain than as a film that will stand the test of time."