Cast & Crew
Three years after the shortest war in history has ended in nuclear holocaust, a handful of survivors grope their way among the rubble that was London. Penelope, 17 months pregnant, lives with her lover, Alan, and her parents in the underground. Other survivors are Capt. Bules Martin, who holds a "Defeat of England" medal for failing to save the royal palace from "the thing" during the war; Lord Fortnum, afraid that he will mutate into a bed sitting room; a fireguard, Mate; Shelter Man, a regional head of government; a male nurse, the National Health Service; and two policemen who hover over the survivors in a balloon and shout "keep moving" to prevent people from becoming easy targets in the event of another war. Fortnum goes to 29 Cul de Sac Place and eventually does become a bed sitting room. Penelope's mother is presented with her own death certificate and turns into a cupboard. Penelope, despite her love for Alan, is forced to marry Martin because of his bright future. Her father is selected to be prime mnister because of his 22-inch leg length, but he turns into a parrot and is cooked and eaten. Penelope finally gives birth to a monster that quickly dies. Martin, lacking sexual power, yields his nuptial honors to Alan. Penelope quickly gives birth to a second child, who is normal, and the country is saved: she and Alan walk off together with the child as a band pays homage to Mrs. Ethel Shroake, closest in succession to the throne.
John Victor Smith
The Bed-Sitting Room - The Bed Sitting Room
Filmed on location at a refuse dump in West Drayton, England, The Bed-Sitting Room is best viewed as "theatre of the absurd"; the unconventional narrative is little more than a series of bizarre and macabre sight gags and incidents revolving around a bomb-decimated civilization. To give you some idea of its strangeness, radiation poisoning causes several of the characters to mutate into something else in the course of the film: a housewife into a cupboard, a policeman into a sheepdog, a prime minister into a parrot, a member of Parliament into a bed-sitting room (hence the title). Amid the radioactive ruins, however, these nuclear holocaust survivors go about their lives as if nothing has changed - a policeman still directs traffic even though there isn't any, a television reporter picks through the debris, issuing news reports through hollow TV sets. Sometimes the black humor gives way to the horrific (the birth of a deformed baby), which was also the case with How I Won the War (1967), Lester's acerbic anti-war satire. But even when the film goes too far, it's consistently dazzling on a visual level.
Even more impressive is the cast; it's a veritable who's who of British cinema. Ralph Richardson, Rita Tushingham, Mona Washbourne, Michael Hordern and Roy Kinnear (as the Plastic Mac Man) all have memorable moments. You can also see Marty Feldman in his screen debut (he's a male nurse in drag) and the comedy team of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore as policemen.
But not even these renowned actors and comedians could convince moviegoers to see The Bed-Sitting Room and most critics were baffled by it. Pauline Kael's comments reflected the genuine attitude at the time: "One laughs from time to time, but, as in so much modern English far-out satire, there's no spirit, no rage, nothing left but ghastly, incessant sinking-island humor. We end up blank, and in need of something we can connect with, to restore perspective, because this perpetual giggle almost seems to require a bomb."
The Bed-Sitting Room marked a turning point in Lester's career. The film's financial failure made him a Hollywood pariah - he couldn't find work for five years! His comeback feature, The Three Musketeers (1973), however, was a box-office smash and re-established his reputation as a director. Since then, Lester has focused almost exclusively on highly commercial projects like Superman II (1980) and Superman III (1983). It's doubtful he will ever again attempt anything as offbeat or experimental as The Bed-Sitting Room (no movie studio would let him!). But, love it or hate it, it remains Lester's most challenging film.
Producer: Richard Lester, Oscar Lewenstein
Director: Richard Lester
Screenplay: John Antrobus, Spike Milligan, Charles Wood
Art Direction: Asheton Gordon
Cinematography: David Watkin
Editing: John Victor Smith
Music: Ken Thorne
Principal Cast: Rita Tushingham (Penelope), Ralph Richardson (Lord Fortnum), Peter Cook (Inspector), Dudley Moore (Sergeant), Spike Milligan (Mate), Harry Secombe (Shelter Man), Michael Hordern (Bules Martin), Roy Kinnear (Plastic Mac Man), Arthur Lowe (Father), Mona Washbourne (Mother), Marty Feldman (Nurse Arthur).
By Jeff Stafford
The Bed-Sitting Room - The Bed Sitting Room
TCM Remembers - Dudley Moore
Award-winning actor, comedian and musician Dudley Moore died on March 27th at the age of 66. Moore first gained notice in his native England for ground-breaking stage and TV comedy before later building a Hollywood career. Like many of his peers, he had an amiable, open appeal that was balanced against a sharply satiric edge. Moore could play the confused innocent as well as the crafty schemer and tended to command attention wherever he appeared. Among his four marriages were two actresses: Tuesday Weld and Suzy Kendall.
Moore was born April 19, 1935 in London. As a child, he had a club foot later corrected by years of surgery that often left him recuperating in the hospital alongside critically wounded soldiers. Moore attended Oxford where he earned a degree in musical composition and met future collaborators Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller and Alan Bennett. The four formed the landmark comedy ensemble Beyond the Fringe. Though often merely labelled as a precursor to Monty Python's Flying Circus, Beyond the Fringe was instrumental in the marriage of the piercing, highly educated sense of humor cultivated by Oxbridge graduates to the modern mass media. In this case it was the revue stage and television where Beyond the Fringe first assaulted the astonished minds of Britons. Moore supplied the music and such songs as "The Sadder and Wiser Beaver," "Man Bites God" and "One Leg Too Few." (You can pick up a CD set with much of the stage show. Unfortunately for future historians the BBC commonly erased tapes at this period - why? - so many of the TV episodes are apparently gone forever.)
Moore's first feature film was the 1966 farce The Wrong Box (a Robert Louis Stevenson adaptation) but it was his collaboration with Peter Cook on Bedazzled (1967) that's endured. Unlike its tepid 2000 remake, the original Bedazzled is a wolverine-tough satire of mid-60s culture that hasn't aged a bit: viewers are still as likely to be appalled and entertained at the same time. Moore not only co-wrote the story with Cook but composed the score. Moore appeared in a few more films until starring in 10 (1979). Written and directed by Blake Edwards, this amiable comedy featured Moore (a last-minute replacement for George Segal) caught in a middle-aged crisis and proved popular with both audiences and critics. Moore's career took another turn when his role as a wealthy alcoholic who falls for the proverbial shop girl in Arthur (1981) snagged him an Oscar nomination as Best Actor and a Golden Globe win.
However Moore was never able to build on these successes. He starred in a passable remake of Preston Sturges' Unfaithfully Yours (1984), did another Blake Edwards romantic comedy of moderate interest called Micki + Maude (1984, also a Golden Globe winner for Moore), a misfired sequel to Arthur in 1988 and a few other little-seen films. The highlight of this period must certainly be the 1991 series Orchestra where Moore spars with the wonderfully crusty conductor Georg Solti and leads an orchestra of students in what's certainly some of the most delightful television ever made.
By Lang Thompson
A FOND FAREWELL TO ONE OF HOLLYWOOD'S MOST GIFTED DIRECTORS - BILLY WILDER, 11906-2002
Billy Wilder had the most deliciously dirty mind in Hollywood. The director dug into racy, controversial subjects with cynical wit and rare candor; he set new standards for film noir, sex comedies and the buddy film and his movies continue to inspire new generations of filmmakers.
Cameron Crowe, screenwriter and director of contemporary hit films such as Jerry Maguire(1996), was one of those moved by Wilder's film sense. The struggling filmmaker struck up a friendship with the 93-year old veteran and found a friend and a mentor. Their conversations were recently chronicled in a book by Cameron Crowe entitled Conversations with Wilder(published by Knoft).
Billy Wilder might have been born in Vienna, but American culture influenced him from the earliest days. Given the name Samuel, Wilder's mother called her son 'Billy' in honor of Buffalo Bill Cody. The name stuck.
Billy was as restless as his namesake and left law school to become a journalist. While grinding out articles for a Berlin newspaper, Wilder joined with future film directors Fred Zinnemann, Robert Sidomak and Edgar G. Ulmer to make a short film, Menschen Am Sonntag (1929). By the mid-1930s, he had written seven scenarios and even tried his hand at directing. After Hitler's rise to power in 1934, Wilder fled his homeland. Once in Hollywood, Wilder and roommate Peter Lorre had to learn English quickly if they wanted to join the American film industry. Together the German expatriates learned the language and began staking their territory in the Dream Factory.
As a writer, Wilder could craft realistic relationships with sharp dialogue; he proved this in his scripts for Ninotchka (1939) with Greta Garbo and Howard Hawks' Ball of Fire(1941). As a filmmaker, Wilder was well acquainted with the shadowy, brooding style of German Expressionism. He brought these two gifts together to create a landmark film noir - DOUBLE INDEMNITY(1944). He followed this cinematic triumph with a risky project, the story of an alcoholic on a three-day binge. Not the usual subject matter for a Hollywood studio, THE LOST WEEKEND (1945) nevertheless claimed the Academy Award for Best Picture. By the end of the decade, Wilder dared even to paint a portrait of Hollywood stardom gone awry in Sunset Boulevard (1950).
Each of these films is an undisputed classic today, but even at the time, his films were lauded. Six of his screenplays were nominated for Oscars between 1941-1950. Three of his eight Best Director nominations also came during this period. Billy Wilder claimed the American Dream; he was successfully playing by his own rules.
By the end of the '50s, as censorship guidelines were easing, Wilder's projects became even more daring. Sex was central to Wilder's world and Hollywood celebrated his candor. He directed Marilyn Monroe in two of her most sensuous roles, The Seven Year Itch (1955) and SOME LIKE IT HOT(1959). More often than not, Wilder liked pointing his finger at the hyprocrisy of people's sexual mores. In THE APARTMENT(1960), Wilder took an incisive look at corrupt businessmen exploiting their employees for sexual favors. In IRMA LA DOUCE (1963), the world of a Parisian prostitute was lovingly painted in Technicolor tones. In Kiss Me, Stupid (1964), Wilder finally stepped over the line with the story of a struggling composer willing to offer his wife to sell a song.The film, which seems so innocent today, was scandalous in its own day. Critics called Kiss Me, Stupid pornographic smut and buried the picture. Audiences ignored it. Today, the film is a risque farce with great performances by Dean Martin and Kim Novak. The critical lambast deeply affected Wilder; this would be his last sex comedy.
In 1966 Wilder brought together the dynamic combination of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau with THE FORTUNE COOKIE. Director and stars teamed again for The Front Page (1974), a remake of the newspaper classic; and Buddy, Buddy (1981), the story of an assassin and a sad sack ready to commit suicide.
Wilder's many years in Hollywood produced an amazing string of hits. From sarcastic and cynical social commentary to outrageous sex farce, Wilder pushed his audiences to look at their own values and morals. He was an outsider who wasn't afraid to point out the follies of his fellow man or the worst aspects of American culture. He will be sorely missed.
By Jeremy Geltzer
TCM Remembers - Dudley Moore
Filmed on location in England. Opened in London in March 1970; running time: 91 min.
Released in United States Fall September 1969
Released in United States March 1975
Released in United States Fall September 1969
Released in United States March 1975 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Science Fiction Movie Marathon) March 13-26, 1975.)