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on 14 April 2006
what a great film! from start to finish the power of the story within never fails to deliver.An excellent cast and a story of a man seemingly hellbent on self destruction as he battles with the demons of self delusion and the end of the vaudevillian actor. On stage as Archie Rice, Laurence Olivier delivers sadness and cynicim with one breath. He is determined to elude the Inland Revenue,engage in affairs with teenage wannabees, and even persuade his old father to appear on stage with him.His marriage is on the rocks and his daughter seems resigned to father's illusions. It travels a rocky path, and provides a fascinating insight into the world of early 1960's seaside theatre.It is one of Olivier's masterpieces and was one of his personal favourites. Watch it and enjoy the journey from illusion to ruin.
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on 10 August 2008
Laurence Olivier stars as a sleazy, third-rate music hall performer in 1960's "The Entertainer", one of the first and best films of the so called Free Cinema movement, and a movie that is somewhat neglected today (it should be better known). Based on a play by John Osborne, Olivier plays Archie Rice, a mediocre performer in grim seaside town theaters. His shows attract few people (early in the film, we see passersby sneering at the theater marquee that falsely advertises Archie as a television comedian). His father, Billy, was once a talented and successful comedian, but now he is just a cranky old man living with him and Archie's wife, the unstable Phoebe. Archie has three grown children, played respectively by Alan Bates, Albert Finney and Joan Plowright, all very early in their careers. Jean (Plowright, who would become Olivier's wife soon after this film) comes to home from London and sees her family unraveling: one of her brothers have been sent to Suez, her stepmother is becoming more and more unstable, Archie is hounded by his creditors while he imprudently starts a romance with a beauty contestant, with the hope of obtaining financing for his shows from her rich parents. Archie's life goes downhill from here, so the film is quite bleak, but it is very well done (and especially, performed). Some critics see Archie as a metaphor of postwar England, and this may indeed have been Osborne's intention, but the film plays better as a character study of a very flawed man.
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VINE VOICEon 23 January 2010
Archie Rice: [to unresponsive audience] Don't clap too loudly, it's a very old building.

I had been looking forward to seeing the Entertainer for a long time. I knew of it because every time they mention Max Miller they say that the Entertainer was based on his act.

It seems during Max Miller's life time that the writer John Osborne and Laurence Olivier denied it but once he was dead they said of course it was based on him. As a fan of Max Miller I wanted to see how they depicted a Max Miller type of music hall star but was a third rate exponent.

Also I am a fan of British films of the fifties an sixties as they are good examples of how Britain was at the time.

Cleverer reviewers than me will interpret the decline of Archie Rice and the music hall comedians he depicts as the decline of Britain. I can see what they mean as Archie's son played by Albert Finney is in the army and goes to Suez. This was one of the last gasps of the British empire in 1956. Britain and France tried to retake the Suez canal on their own but the US objected and because the US held the purse strings Britain had to withdraw.

I suppose it is an allegory of the music hall which declines as the British empire declines and Archie Rice like most of the British population doesn't realise it or does not want to acknowledge it. What we were doing in 1956 , ten years after a war that had bankrupted Britain doing sending an army to Egypt to reclaim assets that had been grabbed ?

It was a humiliating climb down for Britain but it finally showed us that we were not a world power any more and that we relied on the super power which at that time was the US.

Archie lives in a world where he cant pay his bills but his next show is going to be bigger and better than the current one which is losing money.

In those days comedians used to put songs in to their acts so he constantly sings Why do I care? He pretended he didn't care but he had to of course.

The filming in black and white in 1960s Britain is very effective.In those days we used to go to the seaside for our holidays, eat fish and chips and go to summer shows in theatres. This was the very early days of television.

He promises young dancers and actresses that they are going to be in his next show and as result gets to sleep with them. Interestingly he sleeps with Shirley Anne Field who becomes the girlfriend / wife of Albert Finney his son in this film but becomes a star in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning another great British film.

When I was a kid I used to hate films based on plays as I felt they were too wordy and little action. Now I like them as they are literate and maybe have something to say and do not rely on action. John Osborne is a good writer of course having written Look Back in Anger.

I was brought up in the fifties and sixties so I had heard all these jokes and we inherited the ideas of our parents and they thought that Britain was still great and that the world owed us a living.

A good film and if you love nostalgia and British nostalgia this is for you
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"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.
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on 18 May 2012
77uk The Entertainer by Tony Richardson (1960, 96')

As some people, typically those disagreeing with my views (like on Taxi Driver or the Graduate), have earlier complained that I quote other reviews (easy job, they say) and that I do not delimit my quotations clearly (cheat, they mean), I am trying to here be ultra lucid. Let me further reiterate another point: Not all film reviews have exactly the same objective. (i) For a film like today's, hundreds of reviews exist. So do not expect a detailed plot summary (get it elsewhere in the net); (ii) I write because I think my point, viz how well the film - part of the British New Wave - has lasted its fifty years may interest some readers.

>>>>The Entertainer is a 1960 drama film directed by Tony Richardson, based on the stage play of the same name by John Osborne. It starred Laurence Olivier as a failing third-rate music hall stage performer who tries to keep his career going even as his personal life falls apart. The story is set against the backdrop of the dying music hall tradition, and this has usually been seen as symbolic of Britain's general "post-war decline": loss of Empire, power and cultural confidence and identity.<<<< end quote Wikipedia.

Screenplay work is vital input, with Top British Playwrights of the Sixties like John Osborne, Harold Pinter, Joe Orton, Peter Shaffer, Tom Stoppard, David Storey. Novels and short stories that were adopted came from Stan Barstow, John Braine, Alan Sillitoe and others. The films were termed British New Wave or Free Cinema.

Notable films: Look Back in Anger (1959), Room at the Top (1959), Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960), Hell Is a City (1960), The Entertainer (1960), A Taste of Honey (1961), A Kind of Loving (1962), The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962), Billy Liar (1963), This Sporting Life (1963), Tom Jones (1963) A Hard Day's Night (1964), The Knack ...and How to Get It (1965), Kes (1969), "If...." (1968).

Notable directors: Lindsay Anderson, John Boorman, Jack Clayton, Basil Dearden, Clive Donner, Bryan Forbes, Richard Lester, Ken Loach, Joseph Losey, Karel Reisz, Tony Richardson, Nicholas Roeg, Ken Russell, John Schlesinger, Peter Watkins, Peter Yates.

Notable actors: Alan Bates, Tom Bell (actor), Dirk Bogarde, Richard Burton, Julie Christie, Tom Courtenay, Albert Finney, Richard Harris, Malcolm McDowell, Oliver Reed, Rita Tushingham.

When asked about realism in an interview of his dvd version of The Pianist (2000), Roman Polanski made the major point that he could not make a film (rather than a documentary) about history without telling a story. The point, in its unmistakable clarity and implication, could have been made by Bert Brecht, the great German playwright of the twenties and beyond, himself a great realist. What fascinates us about Osborne/Richardson's Archie Rice is exactly this understanding of realism about the decline of post war Britain, as illustrated by one family's story.

The Entertainer as a movie (1960) is part of the New British Wave, on which I have given a few who-is-who quotes above for further reference and orientation, some of which were already given elsewhere and will continue to be used in future when relevant. The British New Wave peaked slightly earlier and was over much sooner than the French Nouvelle Vague, and on the whole was less playful and innovative, more social and class aware - hence, apart from calling it Angry young men, the near-parallel use of the term Kitchen sink realism.

But the New Wave has produced some of the best movies ever to come out of Britain (I am deliberately excluding the David Lean and likes' sand dune, exotic river and winter steppe epics). Though much of it is shot outside in English summer weather (sic), the interior scenes remain quite theatrical, well-carpented, but otherwise gray and drab - like in Room at the Top (1959) and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960). This is not airy, sunny Paris, nor high ceiling apartments with louvre windows, nor anything like the Provence or the Riviera; the Gulf Stream only reaches the Isles as a tangent.

Counter to most review practice, I am ending both giving a full list of cast and staff. In the lead, Laurence Olivier's performance nearly defies description, even deep at the shallowest end of a near self-parodic role. He never overdoes his acting, and always lets his partners play out rather than simply sketch their roles. Accordingly, there are no weak actors, and young Shirley Anne Field even plays better in Archie's arms than later in Albert Finney's in Saturday Night! Joan Plowright, who perhaps is the only one to see altruistically through and suffer from the fragility nobody is willing to repair - has a near tragic, delicate role for which she deserves a big hug. But then, they are all damn good!!!

Cast: Laurence Olivier (Baron Olivier) - Archie Rice, Brenda De Banzie - Phoebe Rice, Roger Livesey - Billy Rice, Joan Plowright (later Lady Olivier) - Jean Rice, Alan Bates - Frank Rice, Daniel Massey - Graham, Shirley Anne Field - Tina Lapford, Thora Hird - Mrs Lapford, Albert Finney - Mick Rice.

Production: Directed by Tony Richardson, Produced by Harry Saltzman, Screen-play by John Osborne, Nigel Kneale, based on the play by John Osborne, Music by John Addison, Cinematography by Oswald Morris, Editing by Alan Osbiston, Studio Woodfall Film Productions, Filmed on location in the Lancashire seaside town of Morecambe.

British New Wave or Free Cinema Internet references were use for Top British Playwrights, Novels and short story writers, Notable films, Notable directors, Notable actors.

77uk - 18/5/2012
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on 25 June 2011
I saw this film when it first appeared and I more or less agree with the other reviewers. Depressing yes, but the film featured a troupe of brilliant actors at or near the top of their careers.

Back in 1960, things looked bad for Britain because the "empire" was on the way out; this was well within the lifetime of those who had been part of it. Everyone was talking about emigration to places such as Canada. But as Archie Rice shrewdly observed, there is no draught Bass in Canada.

And yet, were things all that bad in Britain in 1960? There was full employment in those days and the standard of living, although rather low, was increasing steadily. Compare that with present day Britain in which unemployment is sharply increasing, the standard of living is on the way down and the streets are less safe than they were. However, Britain still sends its young soldiers to risk their lives in dangerous parts of the world.

The play's author John Osborne was said to be one of the "angry young men". If he were still alive today, he would have found much more to be angry about.
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on 20 September 2014
The reason to watch this is the gap-toothed charm of Olivier's Archie, a subtle and powerful performance. Support is all good in the Morecambe late 50s sunlight; a sunlight which falls too on all the other 'last summers' implied by the film: innocence lost; England in decline and embroiled in the late imperial adventure of the Albert Finney character; marriage failing; the working class men who would have fought in WW1 dying out; the nuclear family falling apart; the young yearning for more than Morecambe (or Blackpool etc.). It's talky of course but has been opened out very effectively and avoids any real sense of forced sentiment. So its sadness does not come with a big emotional kick as the left-wing critique the director meant to avoid I think, on the cusp of the 60s.
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I'm gonna come straight out with it. This DVD gets five stars from me. Here's a film that's largely fallen off the radar being offered for less than four quid. It just so happens to be one of my favourite movies. Sure, I'd love Criterion to get their hands on it as much as all you cinephiles out there, and if they ever do, this DVD will be dead to me. But until that day, I will continue to cherish this release.

So, yeah, you always know you're on to a bad thing when a DVD lists 'interactive menu' as its star billing. This menu only exists to allow you to select chapters; there is not one single extra to speak of. Where MGM really earns its stars, though, is the picture quality. In the age of high definition, this print more than held its own on my Blu-ray player. Likewise, the mono audio track is commendable. A bargain bin price doesn't equate to the usual bargain bin performance on this occasion.

Speaking of performances, Laurence Olivier gives one of his best, if least likely, here as Archie Rice, an allegory for Britain's fall from grace and loss of identity. Archie is a third-rate song and dance man who's seen better days. His loss is our gain as we watch him perform in Morecambe and get to witness some of that unmatchable, wonderful Sixties British seaside in the process. And The Entertainer is a very British affair with its routes in the theatre - and an incredibly accomplished supporting cast including a young Dame Thora Hird.

The coda of Archie singing 'Why Should I Care?' throughout the film takes on increasing poignancy with each reprisal before becoming his classic final act of defiance that only Olivier's performance as Hamlet can compete with.
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on 15 November 2010
What will Deedee make of this, I wonder? Deedee is my consultant cinéaste who keeps me up to date with modern trends. Anything before 1980 will rank as history to her.
Personally, I only give five stars to films that I can revisit time after time and this gem from half a century ago draws me back again in so many ways.
An outstanding performance by Olivier; strong support from a glittering cast; the English seaside in its heyday (I love the seaside); the dying fall of the music hall (I was their at its end), a debut cameo from Finney (I had been spellbound by his performance as Billy Liar in the West End months before appearing in this film); Osborne's kitchen sink ambiance that had transformed theatre (this is a very stagy film but none the worse for that); Richardson's direction (still in its early brilliant phase); a story of struggle against failure (Glengarry Glen Ross, Death of a Salesman) all these add up to a very personal five stars, but what will Deedee make of it, I wonder?
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on 7 September 2014
Laurence Olivier singing and dancing! Despite the cover sleeve being on colour, this is a gritty black and white film set in the north of England, Morecambe to be exact, which shows many aspects of the town that, sadly, no longer exist. It is somewhat dated but for those who want to look back on what a northern seaside resort looked like with its throngs of holiday makers, piers, theatres and a great array of British film stars then this is the film to watch.
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