The Entertainer


1h 44m 1960
The Entertainer

Brief Synopsis

A third-rate vaudevillian uses liquor and young women to escape the pressures of changing times.

Film Details

Also Known As
Entertainer
Genre
Drama
Music
Release Date
1960
Location
England, United Kingdom

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 44m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.66 : 1

Synopsis

Story follows the life of a has-been, talentless vaudevillian who still thinks he's a star, even as he destroys his family around him in pursuing a lost cause.

Videos

Movie Clip

Entertainer, The (1960) - Up The Flag, Mick! Within an early flashback Joan Plowright as art teacher Jean recalls seeing off her brother (Albert Finney as Mick), with her fiancè Graham (Daniel Massey), his unit having been called up from London for the Suez Crisis, in director Tony Richardson’s The Entertainer, 1960, starring Laurence Olivier.
Entertainer, The (1960) - Nuns, Clergymen And Dogs! Sister Jean (Joan Plowright) and stepmother Phoebe (Brenda De Banzie) worrying over paratrooper brother Mick, grandfather Billy (Roger Livesey) harrumphing, when actor father Archie (Laurence Olivier) arrives, early in Tony Richardson's The Entertainer, 1960.
Entertainer, The (1960) - Talent Got A Bit Thin Joan Plowright as Jean visiting from London, Alan Bates her brother Frank catching up on the Morecambe, Lancashire promenade, discussing their song & dance man father (Laurence Olivier), then visiting the (still standing) Winter Gardens theater, Tony Richardson directing from the John Osborne play, in The Entertainer, 1960.
Entertainer, The (1960) - Miss Great Britain Hefty set piece from director Tony Richardson, Archie (Laurence Olivier) the M-C at a seaside beauty contest, his sister Jean (Joan Plowright), father (Roger Livesey) and stepmother (Brenda De Banzie) spectating, in The Entertainer, 1960.
Entertainer, The (1960) - He's A Fool On location at Morecambe in north Lancashire, worried Jean (Joan Plowright) with her retired actor grandfather Billy (Roger Livesey), turning to her father, his son, Archie (Laurence Olivier), his first appearance, also Alan Bates as her brother, in Tony Richardson's The Entertainer, 1960.

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Also Known As
Entertainer
Genre
Drama
Music
Release Date
1960
Location
England, United Kingdom

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 44m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.66 : 1

Award Nominations

Best Actor

1960
Laurence Olivier

Articles

The Entertainer


While films have tended to portray the entertainment industry as a dream factory where lowly people become great, The Entertainer (1960) is a gritty and dark portrait of the seedy side of the stage in playwright John Osborne's comparison of a crumbling Britain to the failing fortunes of a third-rate musical theater performer.

Jean Rice (Joan Plowright), who is involved in a rocky relationship with her fiancé in London, travels to a grimy seaside town (Morecambe, a once popular resort, where director Tony Richardson's parents lived) to see her family. There she observes her struggling father, Archie Rice (Laurence Olivier) a vaudeville entertainer performing to lukewarm effect and thin crowds in fleapit music hall revues alongside grumpy dancing girls. The selfish and deceitful Archie is having an especially hard run, though he has spent a lifetime juggling financial problems and lady troubles.

Archie's personal problems are compounded by a son Mick (Albert Finney) who has gone off to battle in Egypt and a strained home life in the cramped apartment where he lives with his highly regarded, retired entertainer father Billy (Roger Livesey) and his alcoholic wife Phoebe (Brenda De Banzie), who nags him relentlessly about his failures. Archie lies and finesses to escape from his woes and has recently fallen for the charms of a young beauty queen.

In the midst of Jean's visit, the family learns that Mick has been taken prisoner in Egypt and they wait on pins and needles for news of his release, even as Archie attempts to mount a lavish production on credit and family tensions rise to a boil.

A grim, gritty reflection of the economic struggles and desperation of British life, The Entertainer was part of a larger "Angry Young Man" film movement whose cynicism defined postwar Britain. Tony Richardson (and fellow traveler, playwright John Osborne) typified this cinematic movement's trend for realism with an insistence on shooting on-location with natural sound and light. "I couldn't have articulated it, having never been introspective," recalls Richardson in his memoir The Long-Distance Runner but "The Entertainer was a key moment in my development, because all the ideas and convictions I was to work with afterward were crystallized in its making."

Olivier, who first played Archie on the London stage, won an Academy Award nomination for his remarkable impersonation of a selfish, deceitful show-biz has-been, though he lost to Burt Lancaster in Elmer Gantry (1960).

The role of Archie was a dark and realistic break from the more romantic roles Olivier had specialized in previously. But Olivier later claimed that the conniving Archie was more true to his own character and personality. "I have an affinity with Archie Rice. It's what I really am. I'm not like Hamlet," he claimed. Or as Tony Richardson observed of Olivier's enthusiasm for the project, "The character of Archie Rice, which tapped into aspects of Larry's personality that he'd never used before, immediately obsessed him. He accepted the play before it was even finished."

Once production of the play began, Richardson saw Olivier's suitability to the script: "His understanding of Archie was so complete that he could make anything work. He infected everyone with his enthusiasm."

Olivier was masterful in the role, especially in the climactic moment in the play where Archie imitates the only time he witnessed performance greatness in the guise of blues singer Bessie Smith. When Olivier finally performed his rendition of Smith's onstage greatness for the first time in a rehearsal, Richardson and the rest of the cast were blown away. "It was the most thrilling single moment I've ever had in the theatre," Richardson remembered.

The role Olivier originated in 1957 and played so superbly onstage to sellout crowds in London and New York was more than just a character on stage. As Richardson noted, Archie was, "the embodiment of a national mood...Archie was the future, the decline, the sourness, the ashes of old glory, where Britain was heading." Olivier acknowledged in his autobiography that the dramatic departure playing the role of Archie offered him was also a chance to provoke a break in his disintegrating marriage to actress Vivien Leigh.

Olivier's enthusiasm for the project manifested itself in less beguiling ways too. Despite every indication that Vivien Leigh playing a haggard and unlovely Phoebe would work too much against type, Olivier initially proposed the beautiful Leigh for the role.

While Olivier was contemplating a divorce from Leigh, The Entertainer provided the opportunity to find her replacement. A year after the film wrapped Joan Plowright would become Olivier's wife and eventually bear him three children. Olivier claimed in his autobiography, to have fallen for Plowright playing Margery Pinchwife in The Country Wife on the British stage, but Richardson says it was in The Entertainer "that they drifted together."

In 1976, The Entertainer was remade for television, starring Jack Lemmon as Archie, though Laurence Olivier's interpretation of the role proved very difficult to surpass. Critics, however, tended to either love or hate the film. And despite a remarkable performance, Olivier ultimately never achieved the stunning success and adoration with the cinematic version that he had enjoyed with the play.

Director: Tony Richardson
Producer: Harry Saltzman
Screenplay: Nigel Kneale and John Osborne, from a play by John Osborne
Cinematography: Oswald Morris
Production Design: Ralph Brinton and Ted Marshall
Music: John Addison
Cast: Laurence Olivier (Archie Rice), Brenda De Banzie (Phoebe Rice), Joan Plowright (Jean Rice), Roger Livesey (Billy Rice), Alan Bates (Frank Rice), Daniel Massey (Graham), Albert Finney (Mick Rice).
BW-97m. Letterboxed.

by Felicia Feaster
The Entertainer

The Entertainer

While films have tended to portray the entertainment industry as a dream factory where lowly people become great, The Entertainer (1960) is a gritty and dark portrait of the seedy side of the stage in playwright John Osborne's comparison of a crumbling Britain to the failing fortunes of a third-rate musical theater performer. Jean Rice (Joan Plowright), who is involved in a rocky relationship with her fiancé in London, travels to a grimy seaside town (Morecambe, a once popular resort, where director Tony Richardson's parents lived) to see her family. There she observes her struggling father, Archie Rice (Laurence Olivier) a vaudeville entertainer performing to lukewarm effect and thin crowds in fleapit music hall revues alongside grumpy dancing girls. The selfish and deceitful Archie is having an especially hard run, though he has spent a lifetime juggling financial problems and lady troubles. Archie's personal problems are compounded by a son Mick (Albert Finney) who has gone off to battle in Egypt and a strained home life in the cramped apartment where he lives with his highly regarded, retired entertainer father Billy (Roger Livesey) and his alcoholic wife Phoebe (Brenda De Banzie), who nags him relentlessly about his failures. Archie lies and finesses to escape from his woes and has recently fallen for the charms of a young beauty queen. In the midst of Jean's visit, the family learns that Mick has been taken prisoner in Egypt and they wait on pins and needles for news of his release, even as Archie attempts to mount a lavish production on credit and family tensions rise to a boil. A grim, gritty reflection of the economic struggles and desperation of British life, The Entertainer was part of a larger "Angry Young Man" film movement whose cynicism defined postwar Britain. Tony Richardson (and fellow traveler, playwright John Osborne) typified this cinematic movement's trend for realism with an insistence on shooting on-location with natural sound and light. "I couldn't have articulated it, having never been introspective," recalls Richardson in his memoir The Long-Distance Runner but "The Entertainer was a key moment in my development, because all the ideas and convictions I was to work with afterward were crystallized in its making." Olivier, who first played Archie on the London stage, won an Academy Award nomination for his remarkable impersonation of a selfish, deceitful show-biz has-been, though he lost to Burt Lancaster in Elmer Gantry (1960). The role of Archie was a dark and realistic break from the more romantic roles Olivier had specialized in previously. But Olivier later claimed that the conniving Archie was more true to his own character and personality. "I have an affinity with Archie Rice. It's what I really am. I'm not like Hamlet," he claimed. Or as Tony Richardson observed of Olivier's enthusiasm for the project, "The character of Archie Rice, which tapped into aspects of Larry's personality that he'd never used before, immediately obsessed him. He accepted the play before it was even finished." Once production of the play began, Richardson saw Olivier's suitability to the script: "His understanding of Archie was so complete that he could make anything work. He infected everyone with his enthusiasm." Olivier was masterful in the role, especially in the climactic moment in the play where Archie imitates the only time he witnessed performance greatness in the guise of blues singer Bessie Smith. When Olivier finally performed his rendition of Smith's onstage greatness for the first time in a rehearsal, Richardson and the rest of the cast were blown away. "It was the most thrilling single moment I've ever had in the theatre," Richardson remembered. The role Olivier originated in 1957 and played so superbly onstage to sellout crowds in London and New York was more than just a character on stage. As Richardson noted, Archie was, "the embodiment of a national mood...Archie was the future, the decline, the sourness, the ashes of old glory, where Britain was heading." Olivier acknowledged in his autobiography that the dramatic departure playing the role of Archie offered him was also a chance to provoke a break in his disintegrating marriage to actress Vivien Leigh. Olivier's enthusiasm for the project manifested itself in less beguiling ways too. Despite every indication that Vivien Leigh playing a haggard and unlovely Phoebe would work too much against type, Olivier initially proposed the beautiful Leigh for the role. While Olivier was contemplating a divorce from Leigh, The Entertainer provided the opportunity to find her replacement. A year after the film wrapped Joan Plowright would become Olivier's wife and eventually bear him three children. Olivier claimed in his autobiography, to have fallen for Plowright playing Margery Pinchwife in The Country Wife on the British stage, but Richardson says it was in The Entertainer "that they drifted together." In 1976, The Entertainer was remade for television, starring Jack Lemmon as Archie, though Laurence Olivier's interpretation of the role proved very difficult to surpass. Critics, however, tended to either love or hate the film. And despite a remarkable performance, Olivier ultimately never achieved the stunning success and adoration with the cinematic version that he had enjoyed with the play. Director: Tony Richardson Producer: Harry Saltzman Screenplay: Nigel Kneale and John Osborne, from a play by John Osborne Cinematography: Oswald Morris Production Design: Ralph Brinton and Ted Marshall Music: John Addison Cast: Laurence Olivier (Archie Rice), Brenda De Banzie (Phoebe Rice), Joan Plowright (Jean Rice), Roger Livesey (Billy Rice), Alan Bates (Frank Rice), Daniel Massey (Graham), Albert Finney (Mick Rice). BW-97m. Letterboxed. by Felicia Feaster

Sir Alan Bates (1934-2003)


Sir Alan Bates, the versatile British actor, who held a distinguished career on both stage and screen, via a string of outstanding roles in both classical (Shakespeare, Chekhov, Ibsen) and contemporary (Pinter, Osborne, Stoppard) drama, died of pancreatic cancer on December 27th in London. He was 69.

Born Alan Arthur Bates on February 17th, 1934 in Derbyshire, England, Bates was the son of amateur musicians who wanted their son to become a concert pianist, but the young man had other ambitions, bluntly declaring to his parents that he had his sights set on an acting career when he was still in secondary school. He eventually earned a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, but had his career briefly interrupted with a two-year stint in the Royal Air Force. Soon after his discharge, Bates immediately joined the new English Stage Company at the Royal Court Theatre and by 1955 he had found steady stage work in London's West End theatre district.

The following year, Bates made a notable mark in English theatre circles when he starred as Cliff Lewis in John Osborne's charging drama about a disaffected, working-class British youth in Look Back in Anger. Bates' enormous stage presence along with his brooding good looks and youthfulness (he was only 22 at the time of the play's run) made him a star and promised great things for his future.

Four years later, Bates made a solid film debut in Tony Richardson's The Entertainer (1960) as the son of a failing seaside entertainer, played by Sir Laurence Olivier. Yet it would be his next two films that would leave an indelible impression in '60s British cinema; Bryan Forbes' Whistle Down the Wind (1961) and John Schlesinger's A Kind of Loving (1962). Bates' performances as a murderer on the lam who finds solace at a farm house in the company of children in the former, and a young working-class husband who struggles with his identity in a loveless marriage in the latter, were such finely nuanced portrayals of loners coping with an oppressive social order that he struck a chord with both audiences and critics alike. Soon, Bates was considered a key actor in the "angry young men" movement of the decade that included Albert Finney and Tom Courtney.

For the next ten years, Bates simply moved from strength to strength as he chose film roles that both highlighted his range and raised his stock as an international celebrity: reprising his stage role as the brutish thug Mick in the film adaptation of Harold Pinter's The Caretaker (1963); starring alongside Anthony Quinn as the impressionable young writer Basil in Zorba the Greek (1964); the raffish charmer Jos who falls in love with Lynn Redgrave in the mod comedy Georgy Girl; the bemused young soldier who falls in love with a young mental patient (a radiantly young Genevieve Bujold) in the subdued anti-was satire King of Hearts (both 1966); reuniting with director Schlesinger again in the effective period drama Far from the Madding Crowd (1967); a Russian Jew falsely accused of murder in John Frankenheimer's The Fixer (1968, remarkably, his only Oscar nomination); as Rupert, the freethinking fellow who craves love and understanding in Ken Russell's superb Women in Love (1969); playing Vershinin in Sir Laurence Olivier's underrated The Three Sisters (1970); opposite Julie Christie in Joseph Losey's tale of forbidden love The Go-Between (1971); and his moving, near-tragic performance as Bri, a father who struggles daily to maintain his sanity while raising a mentally disabled daughter in the snarking black comedy A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (1972).

Bates would slow down his film work, concentrating on the stage for the next few years, including a Tony award winning turn on Broadway for his role in Butley (1972), but he reemerged strongly in the late '70s in three good films: a conniving womanizer in The Shout; Jill Clayburgh's love interest in Paul Mazursky's hit An Unmarried Woman (1978); and as Rudge, Bette Midler's overbearing manager in The Rose (1979).

By the '80s, Bates filled out somewhat physically, but his now burly presence looked just right in some quality roles: as the notorious spy, Guy Burgess, in John Schlesinger's acclaimed mini-series An Englishman Abroad (1983); a lonely homosexual who cares for his incarcerated lovers' dog in the charming comedy We think the World of You (1988); and a superb Claudius in Franco Zeffirelli's Hamlet (1990).

Tragically, Bates lost his son Tristan to an asthma attack in 1990; and lost his wife, actress Victoria Ward, in 1992. This led to too few film roles for the next several years, although he remained quite active on stage and television. However, just recently, Bates has had some choice moments on the silver screen, most notably as the butler Mr. Jennings in Robert Altman's murder mystery Gosford Park (2001); and scored a great comic coup as a gun-toting, flag-waving Hollywood has-been in a very broad satire about the Canadian movie industry Hollywood North (2003). Also, theatre fans had a treat when Bates appeared on Broadway last year to critical acclaim (and won a second Tony award) for his portrayal of an impoverished 19th century Russian nobleman in Fortune's Fool (2002). Most deservedly, he was knighted earlier this year for his fine contributions as an actor in all major mediums. Sir Alan Bates is survived by two brothers Martin and Jon, son Benedick and a granddaughter.

by Michael T. Toole

Sir Alan Bates (1934-2003)

Sir Alan Bates, the versatile British actor, who held a distinguished career on both stage and screen, via a string of outstanding roles in both classical (Shakespeare, Chekhov, Ibsen) and contemporary (Pinter, Osborne, Stoppard) drama, died of pancreatic cancer on December 27th in London. He was 69. Born Alan Arthur Bates on February 17th, 1934 in Derbyshire, England, Bates was the son of amateur musicians who wanted their son to become a concert pianist, but the young man had other ambitions, bluntly declaring to his parents that he had his sights set on an acting career when he was still in secondary school. He eventually earned a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, but had his career briefly interrupted with a two-year stint in the Royal Air Force. Soon after his discharge, Bates immediately joined the new English Stage Company at the Royal Court Theatre and by 1955 he had found steady stage work in London's West End theatre district. The following year, Bates made a notable mark in English theatre circles when he starred as Cliff Lewis in John Osborne's charging drama about a disaffected, working-class British youth in Look Back in Anger. Bates' enormous stage presence along with his brooding good looks and youthfulness (he was only 22 at the time of the play's run) made him a star and promised great things for his future. Four years later, Bates made a solid film debut in Tony Richardson's The Entertainer (1960) as the son of a failing seaside entertainer, played by Sir Laurence Olivier. Yet it would be his next two films that would leave an indelible impression in '60s British cinema; Bryan Forbes' Whistle Down the Wind (1961) and John Schlesinger's A Kind of Loving (1962). Bates' performances as a murderer on the lam who finds solace at a farm house in the company of children in the former, and a young working-class husband who struggles with his identity in a loveless marriage in the latter, were such finely nuanced portrayals of loners coping with an oppressive social order that he struck a chord with both audiences and critics alike. Soon, Bates was considered a key actor in the "angry young men" movement of the decade that included Albert Finney and Tom Courtney. For the next ten years, Bates simply moved from strength to strength as he chose film roles that both highlighted his range and raised his stock as an international celebrity: reprising his stage role as the brutish thug Mick in the film adaptation of Harold Pinter's The Caretaker (1963); starring alongside Anthony Quinn as the impressionable young writer Basil in Zorba the Greek (1964); the raffish charmer Jos who falls in love with Lynn Redgrave in the mod comedy Georgy Girl; the bemused young soldier who falls in love with a young mental patient (a radiantly young Genevieve Bujold) in the subdued anti-was satire King of Hearts (both 1966); reuniting with director Schlesinger again in the effective period drama Far from the Madding Crowd (1967); a Russian Jew falsely accused of murder in John Frankenheimer's The Fixer (1968, remarkably, his only Oscar nomination); as Rupert, the freethinking fellow who craves love and understanding in Ken Russell's superb Women in Love (1969); playing Vershinin in Sir Laurence Olivier's underrated The Three Sisters (1970); opposite Julie Christie in Joseph Losey's tale of forbidden love The Go-Between (1971); and his moving, near-tragic performance as Bri, a father who struggles daily to maintain his sanity while raising a mentally disabled daughter in the snarking black comedy A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (1972). Bates would slow down his film work, concentrating on the stage for the next few years, including a Tony award winning turn on Broadway for his role in Butley (1972), but he reemerged strongly in the late '70s in three good films: a conniving womanizer in The Shout; Jill Clayburgh's love interest in Paul Mazursky's hit An Unmarried Woman (1978); and as Rudge, Bette Midler's overbearing manager in The Rose (1979). By the '80s, Bates filled out somewhat physically, but his now burly presence looked just right in some quality roles: as the notorious spy, Guy Burgess, in John Schlesinger's acclaimed mini-series An Englishman Abroad (1983); a lonely homosexual who cares for his incarcerated lovers' dog in the charming comedy We think the World of You (1988); and a superb Claudius in Franco Zeffirelli's Hamlet (1990). Tragically, Bates lost his son Tristan to an asthma attack in 1990; and lost his wife, actress Victoria Ward, in 1992. This led to too few film roles for the next several years, although he remained quite active on stage and television. However, just recently, Bates has had some choice moments on the silver screen, most notably as the butler Mr. Jennings in Robert Altman's murder mystery Gosford Park (2001); and scored a great comic coup as a gun-toting, flag-waving Hollywood has-been in a very broad satire about the Canadian movie industry Hollywood North (2003). Also, theatre fans had a treat when Bates appeared on Broadway last year to critical acclaim (and won a second Tony award) for his portrayal of an impoverished 19th century Russian nobleman in Fortune's Fool (2002). Most deservedly, he was knighted earlier this year for his fine contributions as an actor in all major mediums. Sir Alan Bates is survived by two brothers Martin and Jon, son Benedick and a granddaughter. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

You were a pretty little thing. Not that looks are important - not even for a woman. You don't look at the mantelpiece when you poke the fire.
- Billy Rice
Don't clap too loudly, it's a very old building.
- Archie Rice

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Voted One of the Ten Best Films of the Year by the 1960 New York Times Film Critics.

Released in United States 1994

Released in United States 2000

Re-released in United States November 17, 1989

Re-released in United States on Video November 7, 1995

Re-released in United States on Video September 24, 1996

Film billed Joan Plowright as being "introduced," even though she had previously appeared in "Moby Dick" (1956) and "Time Without Pity" (1957).

Albert Finney makes his screen debut.

Released in USA on video.

Woodfall Film Productions was formed by Tony Richardson and John Osborne in 1958.

Released in United States 2000 (Shown in New York City (Film Forum) as part of program "The British New Wave: From Angry Young Men to Swinging London" October 27 - November 16, 2000.)

Re-released in United States on Video September 24, 1996

Re-released in United States on Video November 7, 1995

Released in United States 1994 (Shown in New York City (Walter Reade) as part of program "Laughter in the Dark: Tony Richardson" August 26 - September 13, 1994.)

Re-released in United States November 17, 1989 (New York City)