The Entertainer 
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A tatty, ageing seaside performer is a failure as a family man and as an entertainer. Laurence Olivier plays the excruciating Archie Rice, with an ego that destroys the lives of those closest to him. Albert Finney and Alan Bates make their film debuts as his sons.
The Entertainer of the title is Archie Rice, a mediocre music hall artist upholding a dying tradition in an English seaside against a background of the 1956 Suez Crisis. Laurence Olivier stars and is supported by a superb cast including a young Alan Bates as his son, Roger Livesey as his kindly, now retired, always more talented and popular father, and Joan Plowright as his daughter (who, ironically given the story, married Olivier the following year). Albert Finney makes his screen debut in a tiny role and the remarkable cast also features Daniel Massey, Shirley Anne Field, Thora Hird and Charles Gray. Archie himself is a hollow man who brings pain to all around him, and while Olivier's brilliant performance reveals the layers of cynicism which disguise the emptiness inside, the emotional resonance lies with those forced to endure Rice's manipulations, adulteries and deceits.
On stage John Osborne's play proved to be a signature part for Olivier, and director Tony Richardson--who filmed Osborne's equally sour Look Back In Anger (1958)--handles the material with unvarnished realism. Unfolding like a dark variation on Chaplin's Limelight (1952), the film equally casts a shadow over the less stellar Tony Hancock vehicle The Punch and Judy Man (1963), ultimately working as both family tragedy and allegory for a declining post-war England. Surprisingly an American 1976 TV movie remake starring Jack Lemmon held its own against this minor British classic.
On the DVD: The Entertainer is presented letterboxed at 1.66:1, and sourced from an excellent print preserves the look of the original black and white cinematography very well. Even so a little material is clipped from either side of the image, though this is most notable on the left of the picture. The mono sound is very good. There are no features other than optional subtitles, including English for those hard of hearing. --Gary S Dalkin
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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.
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?