A drunken salesman returns to the scene of his yearly binge to preach deliverance from the pipe dream to his drunken friends.
Genre: Performing Arts - Theater
Release Date: 15-JAN-2002
Media Type: DVD
"The chance to see Jason Robards portray his signature role as "Hickey" makes this video well worth the price. This performance of the complete "Iceman Cometh" was originally aired on CBS in 1962, as a live two-part performance, and the video and audio quality suffer from the transferral, but what remains is an extremely well-directed version of this play, which preserves Robards in the role that first brought him acclaim. The supporting cast in generaly excellent, with standout performances from James Broderick and a very young Robert Redford. This version of the play makes an interesting contrast to the 1973 film version, directed by John Frankenheimer, which features a decent, though limted, Lee Marvin as Hickey, but which also displays two incredible actors, Robert Ryan as Larry, and Frederick March as Harry Hope, who are so wonderful in their final screen roles that they overshadow the rest of the characters, Hickey included. One can only lament the director's choice not to cast Robards, thus missing the opportunity to unite three of the greatest O'Neill interpreters in these three splendid roles. Oh well......."
A Great Version of a Great Play
G. Bestick | Dobbs Ferry, NY USA | 02/01/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Many people, including me, believe The Iceman Cometh is Eugene O'Neil's best play, even better than Long Day's Journey into Night. Iceman is one of the deepest dives into the American psyche ever put on stage. The bad news about the Broadway Theater Archive DVD (originally released as a teleplay by CBS in 1960) is that its production values are primitive. The good news is that this Sidney Lumet television version is based on Jose Quintero's definitive 1956 Broadway production. The best news is that Jason Robards reprises his Broadway role as Hickey.
The setting is Harry Hope's saloon, and the year is 1912. Harry's regulars, a diverse lot of misfits and failures, spend their days drinking and dreaming of the things they're going to do when they get right again. Into their midst bursts the drummer Hickey, right on time for his annual bender. But this year Hickey's different. He's not drinking; he's not making his usual jokes about finding his wife in bed with the iceman; and he's on a mission to help Harry's regulars wise up and let go of their pipe dreams.
Hickey uses his salesman's pep and charm to convince his old drinking buddies to pick up the burdens they set down in favor of gin-induced oblivion. The toughest nut for Hickey to crack is Larry, a former labor radical who claims to be sick of life and through with caring about other people. Larry has his own distraction. Don, the son of Larry's old girlfriend, has shown up bearing a load of guilt he wants Larry to help him carry. Larry's mask of indifference keeps slipping, and he keeps trying to push it back into place.
Over four mesmerizing acts we see what happens to Harry's little community when they cast off their illusions. We learn why Hickey's changed, and why it's so important to him that the others wise up, just like he has.
With one glaring exception, the large cast is excellent. Farrell Pelly as Harry Hope and Myron McCormack as Larry anchor the rolling chaos of the saloon. Tom Pedi as the bartender Rocky provides a rude energy that keeps things moving. Jason Robards lit up the theater world when he played Hickey on Broadway. His is the definitive portrayal, one of the great turns on the American stage. Hickey's final speech, about how he overcame his own pipe dreams, is worth the price of the DVD by itself. The glaring exception is Don, played by a very young Robert Redford. Don is a difficult part, a weak man who's done an unsavory thing, for whom we're supposed to feel pity. Redford just isn't up to it, which drags down this part of the plot.
O'Neil is showing us the American Century in embryo. Its bottom social layer was awhirl in vague dreams and murderous rages, filled with people fighting a desperate rear guard action against despair. O'Neil isn't judging here, simply trying to understand. His language and his compassion for these characters pin the play down in time and space. His insight that human illusions are both necessary and lethal give the play universal implications.
Iceman has been revived several times since this version aired. I'm not sure modern American actors can get to the emotional core of this play any more. For all of its criminality, all the boozing and profanity and violence, there's innocence in these characters, and a sweetness in the way they care for one another that's probably passed out of American life. Mid-century America still had it to some degree, which is why this is the version of Iceman you want to see.
The Essence of Theatre
Bruce Kendall | Southern Pines, NC | 02/27/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"All you have to do is look at the artists involved in this production to realize the landmark importance of this staging. Robards, considered the quintessential interpreter of O'Neill, reprises the role that first caused critics to sit up and take notice that a major league actor had arrived on Broadway. O'Neill roles were more like autobiographies for Robards. He faced the same alcohol-induced demons in real life as confronted such characters as Hickey and James Tyrone.
Though Lumet may not be in the same league as Jose Quintero as far as O'Neill directors are concerned, he nevertheless wrings solid performances out of every cast member involved in this historic production. If you can, you may want to purchase this in conjunction with the 1976 Broadway Archive tape of William Saroyan's "The Time of Your Life." Both plays have similar bar room settings, about the same size cast, and similar themes. It's interesting to see how two major playwright's handle diologue and monologue, dramatic conflict and themes of dissipation. Personally, I've always felt O'Neill digs a lot deeper than Saroyan, but both productions are superb, as are most plays in the Broadway Theater Archive series."
Black and white, grainy, grand theater!
Howard G Brown | Port St. Lucie, FL USA | 08/10/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I don't need to add superlatives to Robard's signature performance in the role of Hickey. Instead I want to mention a scene in Act 2 (first cassette of the vcr version) between Larry Slade (Myron McCormick) and Don Parrit (Robert Redford).
The bums are starting to gather for Harry's birthday, and Parrit makes his way to Larry's table, where he tells him of Hickey's hounding him. The camera is close on the two men at the table; Larry, suspecting the worst, does not want to listen as Parrit repeats what Hickey has been saying to him about guilt and admitting the truth. In the background, Cora, one of the 'tarts' is practicing "The Sweetheart Of Paradise Alley" to sing for Harry, in a sweet, halting voice.
It is an absloutely stunning scene, and Redford somehow makes it believable that he has remembered all that Hickey has said to him: "what did he mean by that, Larry?" he keeps asking McCormick, who can't bear to look him in the eye.
The play itself is embedded with such scenic images, where characters, and dialog, and setting, and antiphonal voices communicate the essence of longing or hope or dispair or delusion or faith or enmity -- the complete range of human emotion and experience. All of this realized in this production.
Another dimension that comes across in this production is the role of women in the lives of men. The three tarts in the play comically and pathetically balance three offstage women who haunt the play: Parrit's mother, Harry Hope's Bessy, and Hickey's Evelyn."
Nancy French | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania | 04/23/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD is a wonderful supplement to the play. Read the play first, then buy this DVD. You'll be shocked at how wonderfully portrayed the characters are, and how close they are the the characters you've conjured in your mind. One of the best plays written, a great description of the hearts and souls of humankind. As the intro says, it is a play for people with mature minds and sensitive hearts."