The Entertainer DVD
This DVD is currently unavailable to order
Directed by Tony Richardson
Produced in 1960
Main Language - ENGLISH
Countries & Regions - British Film
Although he largely owed his reputation to the cultural explosion that was Look Back in Anger, playwright John Osborne very quickly transcended the ‘angry young man’ label with a series of productions that surpassed Look Back’s blunt aggression and left indelible impressions on the English theatre. Within a few years of his shattering debut in 1956, Osborne had penned Epitaph for George Dillon, Luther, Inadmissible Evidence and, significantly, The Entertainer.
Osborne’s involvement in the development of New Wave British cinema was no less impressive. With theatre director Tony Richardson he helped to create Woodfall, arguably the most important British film production company of the sixties. By bringing to the screen censor-challenging versions of stage successes such as Osborne’s own Look Back in Anger (1959) and Shelagh Delaney’s A Taste of Honey (1961), Woodfall played a significant role in revolutionising the ‘adult’ British cinema of the time.
It is very much to the New Wave that the 1960 film version of The Entertainer belongs. Although, ostensibly, it eschews the characteristic regionalism and inherent aggression of Woodfall’s other early films, its portrayal of a popular culture in decline reflects an angry reaction to fifties stagnation that is very typical of its author.
Archie Rice, the entertainer, moves in a static world grounded in empty imperialism and rigid notions of class; a world fearful of progress and, despite post-war promises, suspicious of social and cultural change. Famously, the role was a great personal success for Laurence Olivier, who, in casting off the Shakespearean roles and stepping shamelessly into the moth-eaten suit of an end-of-the-pier nobody, took what was then a very bold move for a theatrical knight. Although his screen performance seems mannered today, it is worth remembering the devastating impact it had at the time. Olivier’s Archie Rice is a kind of Willy Loman of the variety circuit - he is a man slowly gathering sadness and desperation.
If The Entertainer is not quite the high point of British New Wave Cinema, the film, thanks to its remarkable cast, still resonates as an actors’ piece on the nature of failure – that of a man, a culture and, by extension, a country.
Julian Upton on 2nd March 2004
Author of 151 reviews
Laurence Olivier was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Archie Rice, a down-and-out vaudeville entertainer in a seedy coastal resort, who is faced with an emotional crisis when he is visited by his daughter.
Length: 99 mins
Aspect ratio: 1.66:1 Widescreen
Format: DVD Colour
Released: 1st March 2004
Cat No: 10001026
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