Cromwell


2h 20m 1970

Brief Synopsis

A Puritan leader sparks a revolution in 17th century England.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Historical
War
Biography
Release Date
Jan 1970
Premiere Information
New York opening: 26 Oct 1970
Production Company
Irving Allen Ltd.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
England, United Kingdom

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 20m
Sound
70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints), Mono (35 mm prints)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

In 1640 England, Oliver Cromwell, a Puritan member of Parliament, is disturbed by the growing injustices of King Charles's reign and fears that Queen Henrietta Maria, a French Catholic, is influencing her husband to modify the rituals of the Church of England. At first Cromwell decides to take his family to Scotland, but later he is convinced to remain and aid his Puritan friends, the Roundheads, against the Cavaliers, the royalist allies in Parliament. Encouraged by the strong influence of his Catholic queen and the loyal Earl of Strafford, as well as by his own belief in the divine right of the monarchy, Charles demands that Parliament finance a war on Scotland; when Parliament refuses the order, Charles sends troops into the house to regain control, and Cromwell and others accuse him of treason. A civil war develops between the forces of Parliament and the king's troops. After his Puritan forces suffer a resounding defeat at Edgehill, Cromwell takes it upon himself to train the troops, and they subsequently defeat the king's men at Naseby. The queen and the Prince of Wales flee, but King Charles is caught and brought to trial before Parliament; in 1649, Charles is found guilty and beheaded. After a brief and ineffective rule by Parliament, Cromwell returns to London, dissolves Parliament, and has himself appointed Lord Protector, a position which gives him almost dictatorial control over England.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Historical
War
Biography
Release Date
Jan 1970
Premiere Information
New York opening: 26 Oct 1970
Production Company
Irving Allen Ltd.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
England, United Kingdom

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 20m
Sound
70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints), Mono (35 mm prints)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Award Wins

Best Costume Design

1970

Award Nominations

Best Music Original Dramatic Score

1971

Articles

Cromwell


Although repeatedly told by skittish studio executives and potential backers that the days of the big historical epic were over, writer-director Ken Hughes finally got to put his nearly decade-long obsession with Oliver Cromwell on screen in 1970 in Cromwell, a lavish production devoted to the life of the famous anti-Royalist and his short reign (1653-1658) as Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland. Taking substantial liberties with many of the facts about England's civil war period, Hughes's film portrays Cromwell as a reluctant rebel drawn into a distasteful struggle for the sake of the "common people."

Hughes became hooked on the subject after reading a biography of Cromwell in the early 60s. Over the next nine years, he read more than 120 books about him and toured England in his spare time between film jobs visiting historic sites and conducting research in museums and record offices. Hughes was determined to pull together a tragic drama that would have "all the haunting inevitability of Greek tragedy." His dream became possible when he met Irving Allen, a producer who shared his obsession with Cromwell. By the time principal photography began in the spring of 1969, they had poured their mutual interest into a huge cinematic undertaking, with more than 200 workers at Shepperton Studios building the largest outdoor set ever constructed for an English-made film, a two-acre recreation of London's Parliament Square as it looked in 1642, complete with House of Commons, Westminster Palace and Abbey, and roughly 50 other buildings. Close to 4,000 costumes were made, 16,000 separate props items found or made, and thousands of wigs ordered from all over Europe.

Hughes's care was not limited to mere period detail. He also secured the services of some of England's most respected actors, among them Robert Morley, Dorothy Tutin, Timothy Dalton, Patrick Magee, and Frank Finlay. For the part of doomed King Charles I, Hughes went straight to the top of Britain's acting A-list and hired Sir Alec Guinness. For the title role, one of the hottest actors in the business at the time was campaigning heavily for the part-Richard Harris, fresh off the successes of Camelot (1967) and a hit pop song, "MacArthur Park."

Harris was perhaps the least likely candidate for the role of the Puritan leader who, according to many historians, carried out near genocide in Ireland. Although a fierce Irish nationalist, Harris saw past the historical circumstances and became intrigued with Cromwell as "a symbol of integrity, anxious to reform society," as the actor described him. Harris insisted it wasn't necessary for an actor to strictly believe in the character he was playing. Instead Harris drew inspiration from Cromwell's idealistic nature, his goal to take the country out of aristocratic hands, and his "rigorous self-discipline," a trait Harris admired.

Self-discipline, however, was not really Harris's strong suit. By this point in his career, directors who hired him usually added time to their shooting schedules to cover the inevitable days when his heavy drinking made it impossible for him to work. On Cromwell, however, the actor exceeded even his own reputation, going so far off the deep end (and immersing himself so completely in the character), that he crossed the line into a complete mental breakdown upon seeing Guinness in costume for the beheading of King Charles. Convinced it was happening for real, Harris went hysterical, desperately trying to stop the "execution." He had to be heavily tranquilized and filming suspended for 18 hours while he slept off his momentary nervous breakdown.

In addition to the massive set at Shepperton, Cromwell was also shot in Spain, where Hughes and Allen were able to secure locations and ample trained cavalry and infantry extras for the huge battle scenes.

Critics were equally divided over Cromwell on its theatrical release. Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun-Times complained that "Ken Hughes' direction doesn't seem adequate for the epic form" and on the performances, he noted, that Harris "doesn't inhabit the role or even seem to care much about it. Even worse is Alec Guinness, as King Charles, who is so concerned with doing a character turn that he doesn't do a character." Variety, on the other hand, stated that "Richard Harris and Alec Guinness, respectively, give powerhouse performances" and "The battle scenes...at Nazeby and Edgehill are excitingly drawn." Regardless of what the reviewers thought, the most important critics - the moviegoers - stayed away in droves and the film was a financial disappointment. Cromwell did, however, score two Oscar® nominations - for Best Score (by Frank Cordell) and for Best Costume Design (by Vittorio Nino Novarese), which won in the latter category.

Director: Ken Hughes
Producer: Irving Allen
Screenplay: Ken Hughes
Cinematography: Geoffrey Unsworth
Editing: Bill Lenny
Art Direction: Herbert Westbrook
Original Music: Frank Cordell
Cast: Richard Harris (Cromwell), Alec Guinness (King Charles I), Robert Morley (Earl of Manchester), Dorothy Tutin (Queen Henrietta Maria), Timothy Dalton (Prince Rupert), Frank Finlay (John Carter).
C-140m. Letterboxed.

by Rob Nixon
Cromwell

Cromwell

Although repeatedly told by skittish studio executives and potential backers that the days of the big historical epic were over, writer-director Ken Hughes finally got to put his nearly decade-long obsession with Oliver Cromwell on screen in 1970 in Cromwell, a lavish production devoted to the life of the famous anti-Royalist and his short reign (1653-1658) as Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland. Taking substantial liberties with many of the facts about England's civil war period, Hughes's film portrays Cromwell as a reluctant rebel drawn into a distasteful struggle for the sake of the "common people." Hughes became hooked on the subject after reading a biography of Cromwell in the early 60s. Over the next nine years, he read more than 120 books about him and toured England in his spare time between film jobs visiting historic sites and conducting research in museums and record offices. Hughes was determined to pull together a tragic drama that would have "all the haunting inevitability of Greek tragedy." His dream became possible when he met Irving Allen, a producer who shared his obsession with Cromwell. By the time principal photography began in the spring of 1969, they had poured their mutual interest into a huge cinematic undertaking, with more than 200 workers at Shepperton Studios building the largest outdoor set ever constructed for an English-made film, a two-acre recreation of London's Parliament Square as it looked in 1642, complete with House of Commons, Westminster Palace and Abbey, and roughly 50 other buildings. Close to 4,000 costumes were made, 16,000 separate props items found or made, and thousands of wigs ordered from all over Europe. Hughes's care was not limited to mere period detail. He also secured the services of some of England's most respected actors, among them Robert Morley, Dorothy Tutin, Timothy Dalton, Patrick Magee, and Frank Finlay. For the part of doomed King Charles I, Hughes went straight to the top of Britain's acting A-list and hired Sir Alec Guinness. For the title role, one of the hottest actors in the business at the time was campaigning heavily for the part-Richard Harris, fresh off the successes of Camelot (1967) and a hit pop song, "MacArthur Park." Harris was perhaps the least likely candidate for the role of the Puritan leader who, according to many historians, carried out near genocide in Ireland. Although a fierce Irish nationalist, Harris saw past the historical circumstances and became intrigued with Cromwell as "a symbol of integrity, anxious to reform society," as the actor described him. Harris insisted it wasn't necessary for an actor to strictly believe in the character he was playing. Instead Harris drew inspiration from Cromwell's idealistic nature, his goal to take the country out of aristocratic hands, and his "rigorous self-discipline," a trait Harris admired. Self-discipline, however, was not really Harris's strong suit. By this point in his career, directors who hired him usually added time to their shooting schedules to cover the inevitable days when his heavy drinking made it impossible for him to work. On Cromwell, however, the actor exceeded even his own reputation, going so far off the deep end (and immersing himself so completely in the character), that he crossed the line into a complete mental breakdown upon seeing Guinness in costume for the beheading of King Charles. Convinced it was happening for real, Harris went hysterical, desperately trying to stop the "execution." He had to be heavily tranquilized and filming suspended for 18 hours while he slept off his momentary nervous breakdown. In addition to the massive set at Shepperton, Cromwell was also shot in Spain, where Hughes and Allen were able to secure locations and ample trained cavalry and infantry extras for the huge battle scenes. Critics were equally divided over Cromwell on its theatrical release. Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun-Times complained that "Ken Hughes' direction doesn't seem adequate for the epic form" and on the performances, he noted, that Harris "doesn't inhabit the role or even seem to care much about it. Even worse is Alec Guinness, as King Charles, who is so concerned with doing a character turn that he doesn't do a character." Variety, on the other hand, stated that "Richard Harris and Alec Guinness, respectively, give powerhouse performances" and "The battle scenes...at Nazeby and Edgehill are excitingly drawn." Regardless of what the reviewers thought, the most important critics - the moviegoers - stayed away in droves and the film was a financial disappointment. Cromwell did, however, score two Oscar® nominations - for Best Score (by Frank Cordell) and for Best Costume Design (by Vittorio Nino Novarese), which won in the latter category. Director: Ken Hughes Producer: Irving Allen Screenplay: Ken Hughes Cinematography: Geoffrey Unsworth Editing: Bill Lenny Art Direction: Herbert Westbrook Original Music: Frank Cordell Cast: Richard Harris (Cromwell), Alec Guinness (King Charles I), Robert Morley (Earl of Manchester), Dorothy Tutin (Queen Henrietta Maria), Timothy Dalton (Prince Rupert), Frank Finlay (John Carter). C-140m. Letterboxed. by Rob Nixon

Richard Harris, 1930-2002 - TCM Remembers Richard Harris


Two-time Best Actor nominee Richard Harris, who was also famous for his feisty, off-screen exploits, was once characterized along with Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole as one of Britain's most charismatic and unpredictable leading men during the heyday of their popularity in the '60s and '70s. He died at the University College of London Hospital on Friday, Oct. 25. He had been suffering from Hodgkin's disease, a form of lymphatic cancer, and was 72 years old.

Harris was born October 1, 1930, in Limerick, Ireland, one of nine children born to farmer Ivan Harris and his wife, Mildred Harty. He was a noted rugby player as a youth, but shortly after his move to London in the mid-50s, Harris studied classical acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. After a few years of stage experience, he made his screen debut in Alive and Kicking (1958) and quickly developed a reputation as a talented young actor. His film career became increasingly impressive with such strong supporting turns in Shake Hands with the Devil (1959), The Guns of Navarone (1961) and Mutiny on the Bounty (1962).

Yet it wasn't until 1963 that Harris became an unlikely star after thrilling movie viewers and critics with his electrifying performance in This Sporting Life. His portrayal of a bitter young coal miner who becomes a professional rugby star marked the arrival of a major international talent and won him the Best Actor award at Cannes and an Oscar nomination.

Strangely enough, Harris' next projects were multimillion dollar epics and he went largely unnoticed amid the all-star casts; he had a small role as Cain in John Huston's production of The Bible (1966) and in Hawaii (1966) he played a sea captain who falls in love with a married woman (Julie Andrews). He also tried his hand at a mod spy comedy opposite Doris Day - Caprice (1967). A much better role for him was playing King Arthur in the film version of the Broadway hit Camelot (1967). The movie was not well received critically, but Harris' singing skills proved to be a surprise; not only did he win a Golden Globe for his performance, but the film's soundtrack album proved to be a bigger commercial hit than the film itself. Even more surprising was his unexpected success the following year with the pop hit "MacArthur Park" - that kitsch cornerstone of lounge karaoke. The song just missed topping the Billboard singles chart in the "Summer of 1968;" It was topped by Herb Albert's "This Guy's In Love with You."

The '70s proved to be a mixed bag for Harris. He scored a huge commercial hit with his best-known film of that decade, A Man Called Horse (1970). It became a cult Western and featured him as an English aristocrat captured, tortured and eventually adopted by Sioux Indians. He also showed some promise behind the camera, co-writing the screenplay for the psychological thriller The Lady in the Car With Glasses and a Gun (1970) and directing (as well as starring) in The Hero (1972), a drama about an aging soccer star. But the quality of films in which Harris appeared declined as the decade progressed: Orca (1977) - a terrible Jaws rip-off, The Wild Geese(1978), and worst of all, Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981), in which he had a thankless role as Bo Derek's explorer father.

Based on those films and his general inactivity in the '80s, Harris' comeback performance in The Field (1990) was a wonderful surprise. In that film he played a man who has nurtured a field into a prized piece of real estate only to lose his sanity as the property is taken from him; the role earned him a deserved Oscar nomination and showed that he was still a vital screen presence. Harris took full advantage of this new spurt in his career by committing himself to many fine character roles: the cool, refined gunslinger in Unforgiven(1992), his intense portrayal of a father mourning the death of his son in Cry the Beloved Country (1995), the resident villain of Smilla's Sense of Snow (1997), and as the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius in the epic Gladiator (2000).

Yet Harris will probably be best remembered by current audiences for his portrayal of Dumbledore, the benevolent and wily head of Hogwarts School in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) which will be released nationwide in just three weeks. Harris is survived by his three sons, Jared, Jamie (both actors) and the director Damian Harris.

by Michael T. Toole

Richard Harris, 1930-2002 - TCM Remembers Richard Harris

Two-time Best Actor nominee Richard Harris, who was also famous for his feisty, off-screen exploits, was once characterized along with Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole as one of Britain's most charismatic and unpredictable leading men during the heyday of their popularity in the '60s and '70s. He died at the University College of London Hospital on Friday, Oct. 25. He had been suffering from Hodgkin's disease, a form of lymphatic cancer, and was 72 years old. Harris was born October 1, 1930, in Limerick, Ireland, one of nine children born to farmer Ivan Harris and his wife, Mildred Harty. He was a noted rugby player as a youth, but shortly after his move to London in the mid-50s, Harris studied classical acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. After a few years of stage experience, he made his screen debut in Alive and Kicking (1958) and quickly developed a reputation as a talented young actor. His film career became increasingly impressive with such strong supporting turns in Shake Hands with the Devil (1959), The Guns of Navarone (1961) and Mutiny on the Bounty (1962). Yet it wasn't until 1963 that Harris became an unlikely star after thrilling movie viewers and critics with his electrifying performance in This Sporting Life. His portrayal of a bitter young coal miner who becomes a professional rugby star marked the arrival of a major international talent and won him the Best Actor award at Cannes and an Oscar nomination. Strangely enough, Harris' next projects were multimillion dollar epics and he went largely unnoticed amid the all-star casts; he had a small role as Cain in John Huston's production of The Bible (1966) and in Hawaii (1966) he played a sea captain who falls in love with a married woman (Julie Andrews). He also tried his hand at a mod spy comedy opposite Doris Day - Caprice (1967). A much better role for him was playing King Arthur in the film version of the Broadway hit Camelot (1967). The movie was not well received critically, but Harris' singing skills proved to be a surprise; not only did he win a Golden Globe for his performance, but the film's soundtrack album proved to be a bigger commercial hit than the film itself. Even more surprising was his unexpected success the following year with the pop hit "MacArthur Park" - that kitsch cornerstone of lounge karaoke. The song just missed topping the Billboard singles chart in the "Summer of 1968;" It was topped by Herb Albert's "This Guy's In Love with You." The '70s proved to be a mixed bag for Harris. He scored a huge commercial hit with his best-known film of that decade, A Man Called Horse (1970). It became a cult Western and featured him as an English aristocrat captured, tortured and eventually adopted by Sioux Indians. He also showed some promise behind the camera, co-writing the screenplay for the psychological thriller The Lady in the Car With Glasses and a Gun (1970) and directing (as well as starring) in The Hero (1972), a drama about an aging soccer star. But the quality of films in which Harris appeared declined as the decade progressed: Orca (1977) - a terrible Jaws rip-off, The Wild Geese(1978), and worst of all, Tarzan, the Ape Man (1981), in which he had a thankless role as Bo Derek's explorer father. Based on those films and his general inactivity in the '80s, Harris' comeback performance in The Field (1990) was a wonderful surprise. In that film he played a man who has nurtured a field into a prized piece of real estate only to lose his sanity as the property is taken from him; the role earned him a deserved Oscar nomination and showed that he was still a vital screen presence. Harris took full advantage of this new spurt in his career by committing himself to many fine character roles: the cool, refined gunslinger in Unforgiven(1992), his intense portrayal of a father mourning the death of his son in Cry the Beloved Country (1995), the resident villain of Smilla's Sense of Snow (1997), and as the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius in the epic Gladiator (2000). Yet Harris will probably be best remembered by current audiences for his portrayal of Dumbledore, the benevolent and wily head of Hogwarts School in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) which will be released nationwide in just three weeks. Harris is survived by his three sons, Jared, Jamie (both actors) and the director Damian Harris. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

It's an odd thing, Mr. Ireton. Every man who wages war believes God is on his side. I'll warrant God should often wonder who is on his.
- Oliver Cromwell
A democracy, Mr. Cromwell, was a Greek drollery based on the foolish notion that there are extraordinary possibilities in very ordinary people.
- King Charles
Against the King? You mean a civil war? In England? Huh! You know not the ways of this nation. Such things do not happen here.
- Oliver Cromwell
Do you mean, sir, that I should declare war on my own people?
- King Charles
Aye, before they declare war on you!
- The Earl of Strafford
We would as much go back to our homes and our farms as pursue this mockery of a government one more day.
- John Pym

Trivia

Notes

Location scenes filmed in Spain. Opened in London in July 1970.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1970

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1970