Entertainer, The (1960)

Tony Richardson’s second film, a follow-up to his highly acclaimed debut, “Look Back in Anger,” casts Laurence Olivier in one of his greatest contemporary performance, as Archie Rice, an aging, bitter vaudevillian, who‘s a selfish, pathological liar.

At once fascinating and disturbing, “The Entertainer” is adapted to the screen by John Osborne and Nigel Kneale, based on Osborne’s acclaimed stage play, which Olivier did with great success.

Reportedly, Olivier felt greater affinity with his role as Archie than with any of his Shakespearean roles.  Archie’s motto is expressed when he proclaims, “Life is a beastly mess,” which the bleak feature about moral and emotional stagnation goes on to show in all their ugly facets.

The sight of Archie, a third-rate vaudevillian, wearing garish make-up while delivering his creaking songs and unsettling monologues to his largely indifferent audiences is truly depressing.

Archie’s domestic life is just as demoralizing as his professional one.  His wife, Phoebe Rice (Brenda de Banzie), has been driven to depression and alcoholism due to Archie’s betrayals and insensitivities. 

The only positive character is Jean, played by Joan Plowright, who goes out of her way to accommodate Archie’s various needs.  (After this film, Olivier and Plowright got married).

Oscar Nominations: 1

 

Actor: Laurence Olivier

Oscar Awards: None

 

Oscar Context:

In 1960, Olivier competed for the Best Actor Oscar with Burt Lancaster, who won for “Elmer Gantry,” Trevor Howard in “Sons and Lovers,” Jack Lemmon in “The Apartment,” and Spencer Tracy in “Inherit the Wind.”

Credits

Continental Distributing (Woodfall Production)

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