Oliver!


2h 33m 1968
Oliver!

Brief Synopsis

Musical version of the Dickens classic about an orphan taken in by a band of boy thieves.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Musical
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1968
Premiere Information
New York opening: 11 Dec 1968
Production Company
Romulus Films, Ltd.; Warwick Film Productions, Ltd.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
England, United Kingdom
Screenplay Information
Based on the musical Oliver , book, music and lyrics by Lionel Bart (London, 30 Jun 1960), which was based on the novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens in Bentley's Miscellany (London, Feb 1837--Apr 1839).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 33m
Sound
4-Track Stereo (35 mm prints), 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

During mealtime at a 19th-century English orphanage, 9-year-old Oliver Twist loses at a draw of straws and asks for a second helping of gruel. Shocked by the child's audacity, the workhouse proprietor, Mr. Bumble, sells him as an apprentice to Sowerberry, a miserly undertaker. Derisive remarks about his mother are made by Sowerberry's assistant, Noah Claypole, and Oliver runs away to London to make his fortune. There he meets the Artful Dodger, a slightly older boy who offers him friendship and lodging. Arriving at a dilapidated, abandoned building, Oliver is introduced to Fagin, a crafty old thief who trains homeless boys to be pickpockets. After demonstrating his many techniques, Fagin sends Oliver, accompanied by the Artful Dodger, out on the streets to test his newly-learned skills. Oliver is caught and arrested when the Dodger and another boy attempt to filch the wallet of wealthy and wellborn Mr. Brownlow, and the real culprits escape. At Oliver's trial, however, Mr. Brownlow is so touched by the boy's pleas of innocence that he brings him home to live at his house in Bloomsbury. Certain that Oliver will give information to the police, Bill Sikes, a villainous associate of Fagin's, orders his common-law wife, Nancy, to lure Oliver into a trap. Once the boy is retaken, however, and Nancy realizes that Sikes means to kill him, she contacts Mr. Brownlow and arranges to bring Oliver to London Bridge at midnight. But Sikes follows, seizes Oliver, and clubs Nancy to death. As Sikes desperately drags Oliver across the rooftops, his old dog leads the police and a rapidly gathering mob to Fagin's hideout. Forced to relinquish his hold on Oliver, Sikes tries to leap to safety on a rope but is shot dead. With Oliver safe and sound, Mr. Brownlow--who has since learned that the little foundling is the long-lost son of his dead niece--joyously brings him back home to Bloomsbury. And Fagin, who dropped his life savings in a muddy stream while evading the police, joins with the Artful Dodger in setting off on their never-ending search for new and unpicked pockets. Musical numbers include : "Food, Glorious Food" (Oliver & Boys), "Oliver!" (Mr. Bumble, Widow Corney & Boys), "Boy for Sale" (Mr. Bumble), "Where Is Love?" (Oliver), "Consider Yourself" (Artful Dodger, Oliver & Ensemble), "Pick a Pocket or Two" (Fagin & Boys), "I'd Do Anything" (Artful Dodger, Nancy, Bet, Oliver, Fagin & Boys), "Be Back Soon" (Fagin & Boys), "As Long as He Needs Me" (Nancy), "Who Will Buy?" (Oliver & Ensemble), "It's a Fine Life" (Nancy, Bet & "The Three Cripples" Crowd), "Reviewing the Situation" (Fagin), "Oom-Pah-Pah" (Nancy & "The Three Cripples" Crowd), Finale--"Where Is Love?" "Consider Yourself" (Ensemble).

Photo Collections

Oliver! - Movie Posters
Oliver! - Movie Posters

Videos

Movie Clip

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Genre
Drama
Musical
Adaptation
Release Date
Jan 1968
Premiere Information
New York opening: 11 Dec 1968
Production Company
Romulus Films, Ltd.; Warwick Film Productions, Ltd.
Distribution Company
Columbia Pictures Corp.
Country
Great Britain and United States
Location
England, United Kingdom
Screenplay Information
Based on the musical Oliver , book, music and lyrics by Lionel Bart (London, 30 Jun 1960), which was based on the novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens in Bentley's Miscellany (London, Feb 1837--Apr 1839).

Technical Specs

Duration
2h 33m
Sound
4-Track Stereo (35 mm prints), 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Award Wins

Best Art Direction

1968
John Box

Best Director

1968
Carol Reed

Best Picture

1968

Best Score

1968

Best Sound

1968

Award Nominations

Best Actor

1968
Ron Moody

Best Cinematography

1968

Best Costume Design

1968
Phyllis Dalton

Best Editing

1968
Ralph Kemplen

Best Supporting Actor

1968
Jack Wild

Best Writing, Screenplay

1969

Articles

Oliver!


The Academy Award winning Oliver! (1968) was not the first-ever film version of the famous Charles Dickens novel, Oliver Twist. There were at least seven previous versions captured on film, beginning with Pathe's 1909 version and ending with David Lean's version in 1948. Twenty years passed before the story hit the silver screen again. In 1960, Lionel Bart's musical version of the novel began playing on stage and it was an astounding success. In 1963, director Richard Quine expressed an interest in the film rights to Oliver!; he had hopes to cast Peter O'Toole as Fagin and Georgia Brown in a reprisal of her stage role as Nancy. A year later, Peter Sellers seemed set to play Fagin. Producer John Woolf had acquired rights to the film and planned to cast Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in starring roles. Discussions went back and forth several times before Sir Carol Reed was chosen as director.

Reed was known for his ability to elicit great performances from youngsters. He believed that children are natural actors, that one must merely use little tricks to coax the actor out of them. Reed needed a shot of Mark Lester as Oliver, reacting to a box of treasures opened by Fagin (Ron Moody, reprising his stage role). Lester had a hard time imagining something spectacular inside the box, so Reed brought in a white rabbit and brought it out of his coat for the boy; needless to say, he got his shot of the boy's wondrous expression. Equally impressive was Reed's direction of Jack Wild in the role of The Artful Dodger. Even though Wild was only fifteen at the time, his skillful performance earned him an Oscar® nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

The film, budgeted at ten million dollars, was shot in England at the Shepperton Studios. There had been talk about whether or not Britain could match the musicals of the United States, but Oliver! ended up surpassing many of them in both box office receipts and critical acclaim. Of the eleven Academy Awards for which it was nominated, Oliver! won five of them, plus an honorary award for Onna White for her choreography of the film's dance numbers, an honor only bestowed once before. The other five Oscars were won for Best Picture, Director, Art Direction/Set Decoration, Sound, and Score (Original or Adaptation).

Producer: John Woolf
Director: Carol Reed
Screenplay: Vernon Gilbert Harris
Production Design: John Box
Cinematography: Oswald Morris
Costume Design: Phyllis Dalton
Film Editing: Ralph Kemplen
Original Music: Eric Rogers
Principal Cast: Ron Moody (Fagin); Shani Wallis (Nancy); Oliver Reed (Bill Sikes); Harry Secombe (Mr. Bumble); Clive Moss (Charlie Bates); Mark Lester (Oliver)
C-146m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.

by Sarah Heiman
Oliver!

Oliver!

The Academy Award winning Oliver! (1968) was not the first-ever film version of the famous Charles Dickens novel, Oliver Twist. There were at least seven previous versions captured on film, beginning with Pathe's 1909 version and ending with David Lean's version in 1948. Twenty years passed before the story hit the silver screen again. In 1960, Lionel Bart's musical version of the novel began playing on stage and it was an astounding success. In 1963, director Richard Quine expressed an interest in the film rights to Oliver!; he had hopes to cast Peter O'Toole as Fagin and Georgia Brown in a reprisal of her stage role as Nancy. A year later, Peter Sellers seemed set to play Fagin. Producer John Woolf had acquired rights to the film and planned to cast Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in starring roles. Discussions went back and forth several times before Sir Carol Reed was chosen as director. Reed was known for his ability to elicit great performances from youngsters. He believed that children are natural actors, that one must merely use little tricks to coax the actor out of them. Reed needed a shot of Mark Lester as Oliver, reacting to a box of treasures opened by Fagin (Ron Moody, reprising his stage role). Lester had a hard time imagining something spectacular inside the box, so Reed brought in a white rabbit and brought it out of his coat for the boy; needless to say, he got his shot of the boy's wondrous expression. Equally impressive was Reed's direction of Jack Wild in the role of The Artful Dodger. Even though Wild was only fifteen at the time, his skillful performance earned him an Oscar® nomination for Best Supporting Actor. The film, budgeted at ten million dollars, was shot in England at the Shepperton Studios. There had been talk about whether or not Britain could match the musicals of the United States, but Oliver! ended up surpassing many of them in both box office receipts and critical acclaim. Of the eleven Academy Awards for which it was nominated, Oliver! won five of them, plus an honorary award for Onna White for her choreography of the film's dance numbers, an honor only bestowed once before. The other five Oscars were won for Best Picture, Director, Art Direction/Set Decoration, Sound, and Score (Original or Adaptation). Producer: John Woolf Director: Carol Reed Screenplay: Vernon Gilbert Harris Production Design: John Box Cinematography: Oswald Morris Costume Design: Phyllis Dalton Film Editing: Ralph Kemplen Original Music: Eric Rogers Principal Cast: Ron Moody (Fagin); Shani Wallis (Nancy); Oliver Reed (Bill Sikes); Harry Secombe (Mr. Bumble); Clive Moss (Charlie Bates); Mark Lester (Oliver) C-146m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. by Sarah Heiman

Wayne Thomas Yorke Channels Oliver Hardy & Fatty Arbuckle - An Interview


It can't be a simple task, playing a comic film icon, but to play two of them? That has to be downright daunting, because film icons have their fans, and those devotees care enough that their celluloid heroes are portrayed in a sympathetic light. That being said, it conveys a lot when one actor plays them and takes on all the waiting critics in the process. That actor Wayne Thomas Yorke, (you might know him as "The Orkin Man" from all those commercials of late) has played both Oliver Hardy and Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle on the Los Angeles stage. As Hardy, he has played opposite Brian Mulligan (Stan Laurel) for a series of performances for the Laurel and Hardy international fan club, Sons of the Desert; and he played Arbuckle to rave reviews in Kathrine Bates' biographical play The Roar of the Crowd in 2005. So for those so curious as to how Yorke managed to prepare and handle the task of playing these two silver screen legends, we have an exclusive interview.

TCM: Let's start with this - any actor who plays classic movie comics from yesteryear is more than likely a fan of said comics. When did you first discover them?

WTY: I first discovered Laurel and Hardy in the mid '60s on television in Vancouver, Canada.  I was lucky because I had two sources – the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), and a channel we got in Vancouver from Seattle.  The CBC aired a half hour Laurel and Hardy show every week.  If I remember correctly, it was mostly their silent shorts edited together in a similar fashion to Robert Youngson's compilation features such as Laurel and Hardy's Laughing Twenties and The Further Perils of Laurel and Hardy.  The Seattle channel aired a children's show at 7:00 a.m. called J.P. Patches Along with showing cartoons and 'The Banana Splits', every Tuesday and Thursday mornings, J.P. would show a Laurel and Hardy short. 

From the moment I was introduced to Laurel and Hardy, I couldn't get enough of them.  I think it was because they seemed like big kids to me – getting into trouble the way I used to as a kid.  And there was a gentleness and a sweetness to them I really related to. I first discovered Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle much later in life and by that time, I was aware of what happened to him, so as much as I enjoyed watching Roscoe, it was always tinged with a bit of sadness. He was such a talented, funny man whose life was changed overnight.

TCM: There's so much material out there to reference for both Hardy and Arbuckle, especially Hardy. What was the criterion for finding good material for both?

WTY: Yes, there is a lot of material out there to reference both Laurel and Hardy and Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle.  Having been a life long fan of Laurel and Hardy, I was quite familiar with most of the books written about them.  My favorites include Randy Skretvedt's Laurel and Hardy – The Magic Behind the Movies and John McCabe's Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy and Babe: The Life of Oliver Hardy. These authors obviously have great respect for their subject and also share my appreciation and fondness for them. 

To research Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle I used David Yallop's The Day the Laughter Stopped and Frame-Up! The Untold Story of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle by Andy Edmonds.  When I was cast to play Roscoe in the world premiere of Kathrine Bates's biographical play called The Roar of the Crowd, it was important to me (and to Katherine) that I play him as truthfully as possible.  Katherine did exhaustive research into the entire trial – even going so far as to travel to San Francisco and stay in the room in which the entire incident took place.  So, in trying to be as accurate as possible, I would avoid books that seemed to sensationalize his downfall – books like Leo Guild's The Fatty Arbuckle Case: The Hollywood Story No One Dared Publish.

So, I think the criteria for finding good materials for researching these actors really boiled down to finding material that respected their subject.  And the books I noted above really do share with me a great respect and appreciation for the lives and comedy genius of both Oliver Hardy (and Stan Laurel) and Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle. We are also blessed today with being able to view most, if not all, of their work on DVD or wonderful channels like TCM, and in trying to capture their comedy and mannerisms I would endlessly watch them.

TCM: Laurel and Hardy have an intense following. I've met some of the fans at conventions and their love takes on the air of a strong, almost religious devotion. With that, comes with the baggage of always someone disapproving on how you should play a movie icon. How on earth do you block out that kind of a hindrance?

WTY: I find the fans of Laurel and Hardy, whom I've been lucky enough to meet, to be wonderfully generous and fun loving people.  In fact, I myself am a member of the Laurel and Hardy fan club called The Sons of the Desert.  Any time I've had the pleasure of playing 'Ollie,' I've always been greeted with much love and acceptance.  To me, the fans of Laurel and Hardy love to share their 'heroes' with the world. And because I've been watching 'the boys' for most of my life, performing as Oliver Hardy seems quite second nature to me.

I find the fans of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle to be much more protective of their 'hero.'  I remember writing to someone who I'd heard was a big fan of Roscoe and introducing myself.  I let him know that I was about to play "Fatty" Arbuckle and wondered if he could answer some questions I had.  He promptly wrote back and stated that the first thing I'd have to do is to stop calling Roscoe – "Fatty".  Roscoe apparently hated that nickname.  But the e-mail had a feeling of real protection – as if I had insulted a family member.  This fan ended the e-mail by saying something like I also hope you know he was innocent.  OK, OK, I get it.  I think had I been aware of some Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle diehard fan in the audience, I would have had a hard time blocking that out! 

TCM: Both actors were known for their incredible physical grace in their routines. How difficult was it to recreate their moves on the stage and how did they differ?

WTY: I found recreating Oliver Hardy's movement on stage quite easy.  Although he was certainly graceful and moved and danced very well many of Laurel and Hardy's routines don't involve a lot of movement. They would stand and talk with each other.  They would sit and talk with each other.  Yes, they were very physical but you have to remember that in their heyday, say the year that The Sons of the Desert (1933) was made; Oliver Hardy was in his early 40's.  When I played Oliver Hardy, I was in my early 40's.  So we were the same age.

When I tried to recreate Roscoe's movements, I found that much harder.  First of all, Roscoe weighed 267 lbs, although I am certainly a heavy guy anyway, I chose to put weight on to be the same weight as Roscoe.  He was a wonderful acrobat and very light on his feet.  At the height of his popularity, he was in his early 30's so I had a good 10 years on him.  In the end, I think I finally got an essence of his movement and gracefulness, but in trying to recreate it – I had a new found appreciation of his wonderful talent and agility.

TCM: These were two actors who, despite their heavy set frames, seem to accept their fates differently. It was always reported that Oliver Hardy accepted the status that he would never be the dashing romantic lead, whereas Fatty was more frustrated at the roles he was "fated" to play. Did this difference play a strong part in how you portrayed them on stage?

WTY: No, I can't say that played a strong part in how I portrayed either of them on stage.  Those aspects weren't explored in the scripts, so I never really had the opportunity to explore them.  I will say though that playing Oliver Hardy was a much happier experience for me.  To me, Laurel and Hardy are just like big kids.  Playful, innocent and fun.  Although I would not think about the tragedy of Roscoe's life while recreating some of his routines, it just always felt heavier somehow.  The tragedy of what happened to Roscoe is hard to dismiss from your mind while either playing him or watching him.

TCM: They both had such strong bodies of work (although tragically for Fatty he was cut off in his prime). Do you have any personal favorites that best represent their skills?

WTY: I have so many Laurel and Hardy favorites; it is hard to have a short list.  But if I was to introduce someone to Laurel and Hardy, I would show them Sons of the Desert.  That movie really is perfect Laurel and Hardy.  I love Way Out West too – with the tickle scene making me laugh every single time I view it!  And their dance near the beginning of the film, is sheer bliss.  Ok, I can't leave out The Music Box.  It won them their only Academy Award and still holds up today better than most comedies from the last few decades.  Even my kids love it.

The films of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle that I enjoy and make me laugh the most are The Bell Boy, The Garage, and Coney Island.  There's a wonderful DVD collection out there called The Best Arbuckle-Keaton Collection.  That's got some great stuff on it.  I think there's also a collection called The Forgotten Films of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle that came out after we did the show.

TCM: Obviously, you can't divorce the ugly scandal that Arbuckle suffered with Virginia Rappe's death in 1921. When portraying Arbuckle, is there any sense of redemption on your part to let people know the element of injustice in his life?

WTY: As I mentioned, Katherine Bates wrote the play called The Roar of the Crowd.  Although it was a biography of Roscoe's life in two acts – almost the entire second act is devoted to the three trials and his life during that time.  Like so many people, both Katherine and I feel very strongly that what happened to Roscoe was a terrible injustice, and it ruined him.  You know he was acquitted in the third trial with a public apology from the jury stating that what happened to him should have never happened – but it was really too late.  The damage had been done to him and to his career.  He died of a heart attack at the age of 46.

TCM: Arbuckle himself pointed out that there was a double standard for someone of his physique. He was often quoted with the comment that "If I was thin, tall and handsome they'd have reacted differently." Do what degree of accuracy do you give this quote and how much validity do you give his belief in a double standard for the overweight actor? And is this a double standard that you personally find as an actor today?

WTY: Roscoe said that "If I was thin, tall and handsome they'd have reacted differently..."  Well, if that's how he felt, then it's accurate.  But I don't know if that's entirely true.  To quote Gloria Swanson "We know Charlie (Chaplin) had girls, teenaged girls all the time.  Hollywood was full of them as soon as movies became popular.  But none of Charlie's girls ever died.  Wally Reid at Paramount had girlfriends. But none of Wally's girls ever died..."  Virginia Rappe died – that's what people were reacting to.  I can't imagine that if little Charlie Chaplin had been in Roscoe's shoes – and a girl died at a party he was throwing, that there wouldn't have been a public uproar.  The public was just waiting for something to happen to put Hollywood in its place.  They were sick and tired of all the stories they were hearing coming out of Hollywood.  Unfortunately, the death of Virginia Rappe at Roscoe's San Francisco party that Labor Day weekend played right into that.  I really don't feel that Roscoe's weight had much to do with it.

TCM: Every comic feels the need to go that dramatic route eventually. Ollie Hardy did that toward the end of his career with the John Wayne actioner The Kentuckian (1949). Would Arbuckle have taken that route if his career had been unhampered by the scandal?

WTY: I find this question tough to answer.  I think all funny people like to show they have other dimensions.  I think all actors like to show they can do more than one thing.  And the funny people that I know generally have a lot of sadness in their lives. I was watching Phyllis Diller the other night on TV explain that to make a pearl, there has to be some sand in that clam for the friction to happen.  She went on to say that she felt good comedians were the same way.  'Funny' comes from something not sitting right in someone, a hurt or whatever, and comedy is the way they express it. And I think to do comedy; you have to be a good actor.  So, Roscoe certainly knew comedy.  I think he would be a good dramatic actor, too.  It stands to reason, if he had survived, he would have expressed that dramatic side at some point in his life.

TCM: Finally, do you see the influence of either comedians in later performers. If so, whom?

  WTY: I would think that any comic performer who has had the pleasure of watching Laurel and Hardy or Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle would see right away that these guys are masters at what they do.  They are wonderfully funny men with exquisite comedy timing. Who would not want to be influenced by them?  And now thanks to DVDs and wonderful channels like TCM – the work of Laurel and Hardy and Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle is readily available.

  I can tell you that Laurel and Hardy have greatly influenced my work.  I find myself doing a little 'Ollie' in a lot of what I do.  There is a timing or a pacing that they had that I can really feel.  So, when I am working, I'm often told I'll have to speed something up because there isn't that much time – but that's because I've got Laurel and Hardy's timing in my head! I know Johnny Carson said that his 'take' to the camera was pure Oliver Hardy.  I think there is some Laurel and Hardy in The Honeymooners.  I had the pleasure of working with Dick Van Dyke – and his work is certainly influenced by Stan Laurel.  In fact , he even played Stan Laurel in an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show back in the early '60s. When Stan Laurel died in February 1965, it was Dick Van Dyke who gave the eulogy at Stan's funeral, and almost a year to the day gave the eulogy at Buster Keaton's funeral in February 1966.

Interview by Michael T. Toole

Wayne Thomas Yorke Channels Oliver Hardy & Fatty Arbuckle - An Interview

It can't be a simple task, playing a comic film icon, but to play two of them? That has to be downright daunting, because film icons have their fans, and those devotees care enough that their celluloid heroes are portrayed in a sympathetic light. That being said, it conveys a lot when one actor plays them and takes on all the waiting critics in the process. That actor Wayne Thomas Yorke, (you might know him as "The Orkin Man" from all those commercials of late) has played both Oliver Hardy and Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle on the Los Angeles stage. As Hardy, he has played opposite Brian Mulligan (Stan Laurel) for a series of performances for the Laurel and Hardy international fan club, Sons of the Desert; and he played Arbuckle to rave reviews in Kathrine Bates' biographical play The Roar of the Crowd in 2005. So for those so curious as to how Yorke managed to prepare and handle the task of playing these two silver screen legends, we have an exclusive interview. TCM: Let's start with this - any actor who plays classic movie comics from yesteryear is more than likely a fan of said comics. When did you first discover them? WTY: I first discovered Laurel and Hardy in the mid '60s on television in Vancouver, Canada.  I was lucky because I had two sources – the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), and a channel we got in Vancouver from Seattle.  The CBC aired a half hour Laurel and Hardy show every week.  If I remember correctly, it was mostly their silent shorts edited together in a similar fashion to Robert Youngson's compilation features such as Laurel and Hardy's Laughing Twenties and The Further Perils of Laurel and Hardy.  The Seattle channel aired a children's show at 7:00 a.m. called J.P. Patches Along with showing cartoons and 'The Banana Splits', every Tuesday and Thursday mornings, J.P. would show a Laurel and Hardy short.  From the moment I was introduced to Laurel and Hardy, I couldn't get enough of them.  I think it was because they seemed like big kids to me – getting into trouble the way I used to as a kid.  And there was a gentleness and a sweetness to them I really related to. I first discovered Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle much later in life and by that time, I was aware of what happened to him, so as much as I enjoyed watching Roscoe, it was always tinged with a bit of sadness. He was such a talented, funny man whose life was changed overnight. TCM: There's so much material out there to reference for both Hardy and Arbuckle, especially Hardy. What was the criterion for finding good material for both? WTY: Yes, there is a lot of material out there to reference both Laurel and Hardy and Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle.  Having been a life long fan of Laurel and Hardy, I was quite familiar with most of the books written about them.  My favorites include Randy Skretvedt's Laurel and Hardy – The Magic Behind the Movies and John McCabe's Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy and Babe: The Life of Oliver Hardy. These authors obviously have great respect for their subject and also share my appreciation and fondness for them.  To research Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle I used David Yallop's The Day the Laughter Stopped and Frame-Up! The Untold Story of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle by Andy Edmonds.  When I was cast to play Roscoe in the world premiere of Kathrine Bates's biographical play called The Roar of the Crowd, it was important to me (and to Katherine) that I play him as truthfully as possible.  Katherine did exhaustive research into the entire trial – even going so far as to travel to San Francisco and stay in the room in which the entire incident took place.  So, in trying to be as accurate as possible, I would avoid books that seemed to sensationalize his downfall – books like Leo Guild's The Fatty Arbuckle Case: The Hollywood Story No One Dared Publish. So, I think the criteria for finding good materials for researching these actors really boiled down to finding material that respected their subject.  And the books I noted above really do share with me a great respect and appreciation for the lives and comedy genius of both Oliver Hardy (and Stan Laurel) and Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle. We are also blessed today with being able to view most, if not all, of their work on DVD or wonderful channels like TCM, and in trying to capture their comedy and mannerisms I would endlessly watch them. TCM: Laurel and Hardy have an intense following. I've met some of the fans at conventions and their love takes on the air of a strong, almost religious devotion. With that, comes with the baggage of always someone disapproving on how you should play a movie icon. How on earth do you block out that kind of a hindrance? WTY: I find the fans of Laurel and Hardy, whom I've been lucky enough to meet, to be wonderfully generous and fun loving people.  In fact, I myself am a member of the Laurel and Hardy fan club called The Sons of the Desert.  Any time I've had the pleasure of playing 'Ollie,' I've always been greeted with much love and acceptance.  To me, the fans of Laurel and Hardy love to share their 'heroes' with the world. And because I've been watching 'the boys' for most of my life, performing as Oliver Hardy seems quite second nature to me. I find the fans of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle to be much more protective of their 'hero.'  I remember writing to someone who I'd heard was a big fan of Roscoe and introducing myself.  I let him know that I was about to play "Fatty" Arbuckle and wondered if he could answer some questions I had.  He promptly wrote back and stated that the first thing I'd have to do is to stop calling Roscoe – "Fatty".  Roscoe apparently hated that nickname.  But the e-mail had a feeling of real protection – as if I had insulted a family member.  This fan ended the e-mail by saying something like I also hope you know he was innocent.  OK, OK, I get it.  I think had I been aware of some Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle diehard fan in the audience, I would have had a hard time blocking that out!  TCM: Both actors were known for their incredible physical grace in their routines. How difficult was it to recreate their moves on the stage and how did they differ? WTY: I found recreating Oliver Hardy's movement on stage quite easy.  Although he was certainly graceful and moved and danced very well many of Laurel and Hardy's routines don't involve a lot of movement. They would stand and talk with each other.  They would sit and talk with each other.  Yes, they were very physical but you have to remember that in their heyday, say the year that The Sons of the Desert (1933) was made; Oliver Hardy was in his early 40's.  When I played Oliver Hardy, I was in my early 40's.  So we were the same age. When I tried to recreate Roscoe's movements, I found that much harder.  First of all, Roscoe weighed 267 lbs, although I am certainly a heavy guy anyway, I chose to put weight on to be the same weight as Roscoe.  He was a wonderful acrobat and very light on his feet.  At the height of his popularity, he was in his early 30's so I had a good 10 years on him.  In the end, I think I finally got an essence of his movement and gracefulness, but in trying to recreate it – I had a new found appreciation of his wonderful talent and agility. TCM: These were two actors who, despite their heavy set frames, seem to accept their fates differently. It was always reported that Oliver Hardy accepted the status that he would never be the dashing romantic lead, whereas Fatty was more frustrated at the roles he was "fated" to play. Did this difference play a strong part in how you portrayed them on stage? WTY: No, I can't say that played a strong part in how I portrayed either of them on stage.  Those aspects weren't explored in the scripts, so I never really had the opportunity to explore them.  I will say though that playing Oliver Hardy was a much happier experience for me.  To me, Laurel and Hardy are just like big kids.  Playful, innocent and fun.  Although I would not think about the tragedy of Roscoe's life while recreating some of his routines, it just always felt heavier somehow.  The tragedy of what happened to Roscoe is hard to dismiss from your mind while either playing him or watching him. TCM: They both had such strong bodies of work (although tragically for Fatty he was cut off in his prime). Do you have any personal favorites that best represent their skills? WTY: I have so many Laurel and Hardy favorites; it is hard to have a short list.  But if I was to introduce someone to Laurel and Hardy, I would show them Sons of the Desert.  That movie really is perfect Laurel and Hardy.  I love Way Out West too – with the tickle scene making me laugh every single time I view it!  And their dance near the beginning of the film, is sheer bliss.  Ok, I can't leave out The Music Box.  It won them their only Academy Award and still holds up today better than most comedies from the last few decades.  Even my kids love it. The films of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle that I enjoy and make me laugh the most are The Bell Boy, The Garage, and Coney Island.  There's a wonderful DVD collection out there called The Best Arbuckle-Keaton Collection.  That's got some great stuff on it.  I think there's also a collection called The Forgotten Films of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle that came out after we did the show. TCM: Obviously, you can't divorce the ugly scandal that Arbuckle suffered with Virginia Rappe's death in 1921. When portraying Arbuckle, is there any sense of redemption on your part to let people know the element of injustice in his life? WTY: As I mentioned, Katherine Bates wrote the play called The Roar of the Crowd.  Although it was a biography of Roscoe's life in two acts – almost the entire second act is devoted to the three trials and his life during that time.  Like so many people, both Katherine and I feel very strongly that what happened to Roscoe was a terrible injustice, and it ruined him.  You know he was acquitted in the third trial with a public apology from the jury stating that what happened to him should have never happened – but it was really too late.  The damage had been done to him and to his career.  He died of a heart attack at the age of 46. TCM: Arbuckle himself pointed out that there was a double standard for someone of his physique. He was often quoted with the comment that "If I was thin, tall and handsome they'd have reacted differently." Do what degree of accuracy do you give this quote and how much validity do you give his belief in a double standard for the overweight actor? And is this a double standard that you personally find as an actor today? WTY: Roscoe said that "If I was thin, tall and handsome they'd have reacted differently..."  Well, if that's how he felt, then it's accurate.  But I don't know if that's entirely true.  To quote Gloria Swanson "We know Charlie (Chaplin) had girls, teenaged girls all the time.  Hollywood was full of them as soon as movies became popular.  But none of Charlie's girls ever died.  Wally Reid at Paramount had girlfriends. But none of Wally's girls ever died..."  Virginia Rappe died – that's what people were reacting to.  I can't imagine that if little Charlie Chaplin had been in Roscoe's shoes – and a girl died at a party he was throwing, that there wouldn't have been a public uproar.  The public was just waiting for something to happen to put Hollywood in its place.  They were sick and tired of all the stories they were hearing coming out of Hollywood.  Unfortunately, the death of Virginia Rappe at Roscoe's San Francisco party that Labor Day weekend played right into that.  I really don't feel that Roscoe's weight had much to do with it. TCM: Every comic feels the need to go that dramatic route eventually. Ollie Hardy did that toward the end of his career with the John Wayne actioner The Kentuckian (1949). Would Arbuckle have taken that route if his career had been unhampered by the scandal? WTY: I find this question tough to answer.  I think all funny people like to show they have other dimensions.  I think all actors like to show they can do more than one thing.  And the funny people that I know generally have a lot of sadness in their lives. I was watching Phyllis Diller the other night on TV explain that to make a pearl, there has to be some sand in that clam for the friction to happen.  She went on to say that she felt good comedians were the same way.  'Funny' comes from something not sitting right in someone, a hurt or whatever, and comedy is the way they express it. And I think to do comedy; you have to be a good actor.  So, Roscoe certainly knew comedy.  I think he would be a good dramatic actor, too.  It stands to reason, if he had survived, he would have expressed that dramatic side at some point in his life. TCM: Finally, do you see the influence of either comedians in later performers. If so, whom?   WTY: I would think that any comic performer who has had the pleasure of watching Laurel and Hardy or Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle would see right away that these guys are masters at what they do.  They are wonderfully funny men with exquisite comedy timing. Who would not want to be influenced by them?  And now thanks to DVDs and wonderful channels like TCM – the work of Laurel and Hardy and Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle is readily available.   I can tell you that Laurel and Hardy have greatly influenced my work.  I find myself doing a little 'Ollie' in a lot of what I do.  There is a timing or a pacing that they had that I can really feel.  So, when I am working, I'm often told I'll have to speed something up because there isn't that much time – but that's because I've got Laurel and Hardy's timing in my head! I know Johnny Carson said that his 'take' to the camera was pure Oliver Hardy.  I think there is some Laurel and Hardy in The Honeymooners.  I had the pleasure of working with Dick Van Dyke – and his work is certainly influenced by Stan Laurel.  In fact , he even played Stan Laurel in an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show back in the early '60s. When Stan Laurel died in February 1965, it was Dick Van Dyke who gave the eulogy at Stan's funeral, and almost a year to the day gave the eulogy at Buster Keaton's funeral in February 1966. Interview by Michael T. Toole

Oliver Twists - The Many Faces of Oliver


Oliver Twist is no stranger to the silver screen. For every well-known movie version of Dickens' tale, there are two lesser-known versions. Looking in all the nooks and crannies of the Internet Movie Database, I count 24 versions since 1909.

The latest version, of course, was directed by Roman Polanski and released in U.S. theaters September 30. But the earliest versions were made almost a hundred years before, silent films that are all but lost to us. There are English, American, French, German, Hungarian, and Brazilian versions. There is even a version from South Africa.

In Polanski's version, Ben Kingsley steals the show as Fagin. Kingsley plays him as a troll: hunchbacked, pointy-bearded, and in love with his shiny trinkets. But if he's a troll, he still has a human heart; he's the first adult to show kindness to Oliver, at least in Polanski's version.

Kingsley isn't the first Fagin to steal the show. The stars who've filled his shoes make their own constellation: Alec Guinness (1948), Lon Chaney (1922), George C. Scott (1982), Richard Dreyfuss (1977) -- even Dom De Luise plays a version of Fagin in Disney's 1988 dog-and-cat version called Oliver & Co.

If Fagin has an hint of good in him, Bill Sikes is pure villain. In this season's film, tough-guy Jamie Foreman (most recently in the British thriller Layer Cake) plays the role. But couldn't you just picture Tim Curry as Sikes (1982)? Or how about Andy Serkis, who played Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, in a 1999 "Masterpiece Theater" miniseries (which also features Keira Knightley in a role cut from Polanski's version). Serkis' Lord of the Rings co-star Elijah Wood played the Artful Dodger two years earlier, in an American made-for-TV version.

While we're looking at young stars, let's not forget quintessential child actor Jackie Coogan, who rose to fame beside Charlie Chaplin in The Kid, and then went on to play Oliver at Lon Chaney's side.

But Polanski overlooked the Oliver overload when considering what to make after The Pianist. In the press notes, he says "I thought I owed my children a movie because they were always very interested in my work, so I started looking around for a children's story and eventually landed on Dickens. And 'Oliver Twist' was the obvious choice. Dickens always enchanted me when I was a child, and I like the period very much, both on the screen and in literature."

"I was never afraid of the dark part of 'Oliver' as far as the young audience is concerned because they love dark stories. The fairy tales of Grimm and Andersen are quite frightening. At the same time, there's a tremendous amount of humor in every Charles Dickens book, a great deal of irony and sarcasm, and that appeals to me very much. And I think it appeals to children, within the scope of their comprehension."

Indeed, although Polanski's Twist looks a lot like previous versions -- right down the costumes chosen for the Artful Dodger and Mr. Bumble -- Polanski brings something new. He finds humor, irony, and sarcasm in the minor characters, who seem to have lives of their own. Where other versions treat the magistrate or the coffin-maker as mere extras, Polanski gives them recognizable personalities. Whether their human dimension is curiosity, pity, or prejudiced impatience, they all seem life-sized or larger.

Polanski is the latest filmmaker in a long line of filmmakers to find his way into the story of an orphan who survives his own childhood. Judging by Oliver Twist's track record, it is unlikely that Polanski will be the last.

by Marty Mapes

Oliver Twists - The Many Faces of Oliver

Oliver Twist is no stranger to the silver screen. For every well-known movie version of Dickens' tale, there are two lesser-known versions. Looking in all the nooks and crannies of the Internet Movie Database, I count 24 versions since 1909. The latest version, of course, was directed by Roman Polanski and released in U.S. theaters September 30. But the earliest versions were made almost a hundred years before, silent films that are all but lost to us. There are English, American, French, German, Hungarian, and Brazilian versions. There is even a version from South Africa. In Polanski's version, Ben Kingsley steals the show as Fagin. Kingsley plays him as a troll: hunchbacked, pointy-bearded, and in love with his shiny trinkets. But if he's a troll, he still has a human heart; he's the first adult to show kindness to Oliver, at least in Polanski's version. Kingsley isn't the first Fagin to steal the show. The stars who've filled his shoes make their own constellation: Alec Guinness (1948), Lon Chaney (1922), George C. Scott (1982), Richard Dreyfuss (1977) -- even Dom De Luise plays a version of Fagin in Disney's 1988 dog-and-cat version called Oliver & Co. If Fagin has an hint of good in him, Bill Sikes is pure villain. In this season's film, tough-guy Jamie Foreman (most recently in the British thriller Layer Cake) plays the role. But couldn't you just picture Tim Curry as Sikes (1982)? Or how about Andy Serkis, who played Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, in a 1999 "Masterpiece Theater" miniseries (which also features Keira Knightley in a role cut from Polanski's version). Serkis' Lord of the Rings co-star Elijah Wood played the Artful Dodger two years earlier, in an American made-for-TV version. While we're looking at young stars, let's not forget quintessential child actor Jackie Coogan, who rose to fame beside Charlie Chaplin in The Kid, and then went on to play Oliver at Lon Chaney's side. But Polanski overlooked the Oliver overload when considering what to make after The Pianist. In the press notes, he says "I thought I owed my children a movie because they were always very interested in my work, so I started looking around for a children's story and eventually landed on Dickens. And 'Oliver Twist' was the obvious choice. Dickens always enchanted me when I was a child, and I like the period very much, both on the screen and in literature." "I was never afraid of the dark part of 'Oliver' as far as the young audience is concerned because they love dark stories. The fairy tales of Grimm and Andersen are quite frightening. At the same time, there's a tremendous amount of humor in every Charles Dickens book, a great deal of irony and sarcasm, and that appeals to me very much. And I think it appeals to children, within the scope of their comprehension." Indeed, although Polanski's Twist looks a lot like previous versions -- right down the costumes chosen for the Artful Dodger and Mr. Bumble -- Polanski brings something new. He finds humor, irony, and sarcasm in the minor characters, who seem to have lives of their own. Where other versions treat the magistrate or the coffin-maker as mere extras, Polanski gives them recognizable personalities. Whether their human dimension is curiosity, pity, or prejudiced impatience, they all seem life-sized or larger. Polanski is the latest filmmaker in a long line of filmmakers to find his way into the story of an orphan who survives his own childhood. Judging by Oliver Twist's track record, it is unlikely that Polanski will be the last. by Marty Mapes

Quotes

Mother came to us destitute. Brings a child into the world, takes one look at him and promptly dies---without leaving so much as a forwarding name and address!
- Mr. Bumble
I thieved for you when I was half his age and it's your dirty work I've been doing ever since.
- Nancy
Well if you have it's a living ain't it?
- Bill
Yes, a living is a living.
- Fagin
Some living, Lord help me, some living!
- Nancy
You're a fine one for the boy to make a friend of!
- Bill Sikes
Yes, I am, Lord help me! But tonight he's a liar, and a thief, and all that's bad! Ain't that enough for you without beating him to death?
- Nancy
Bill, you do love me, don't ya?
- Nancy
Of course I do; I live with ya, don't I?
- Bill Sikes
We must have civil words, Bill. Civil words.
- Fagin

Trivia

In conjunction with the release of this film (c. 1968-1969), Random House published a hardcover novelization of the film's screenplay for younger audiences, illustrated with stills from the film. Among the stills featured were scenes showing the arrival at the workhouse and the death of Oliver's mother, who, at least in U.S. prints, never appears in the film.

Early rumors regarding casting included 'Richard Burton' and 'Elizabeth Taylor' as Bill and Nancy, and either 'Laurence Harvey' or Peter Sellers as Fagin; though eventually Ron Moody was asked to reprise his stage role. Jack Wild had played one of Fagin's boys in the London production, but was now old enough to play the Artful Dodger. Shani Wallis finally won the role of Nancy nearly a year after first auditioning when she demonstrated an acceptable Cockney accent - the one she grew up with.

The London sets covered six sound stages and a huge studio backlot - with rich and poor sections. The sets were adaptable overnight in spite of their sturdy look, due to the fact that single dance numbers sometimes required changing sets up to a dozen times.

"Boy For Sale" was shot in July despite the required snow setting; exterior shots depended on adequate cloud cover due to the erratic weather in London. The snowballs were made of polystyrene, salt, crazy foam and mashed potatoes.

The cast included 84 boys between 8 and 15 years of age, and one member of Parliament suggested they were being exploited just as the depicted orphans had been. The filmmakers replied that they needed protection more than the boys did, due to the rowdy nature of the production during the summer.

Notes

Opened in London in September 1968; running time: 146 min with an additional overture. Filmed in 35mm Panavision and blown up to 70mm Panavision for some roadshow presentations. Choreography and staged musical numbers by Onna White; associate choreographer, Tom Panko; assistant choreographers, Larry Oaks and George Baron; choreographic music layouts, Ray Holder.

Miscellaneous Notes

Voted One of the Year's Ten Best English-language Films by the 1968 National Board of Review.

Released in United States 1978

Released in United States December 11, 1968

Released in United States Winter December 1, 1968

Re-released in United States on Video August 11, 1998

Re-released in United States on Video February 13, 1996

Released in United States 1978 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Special Programs - "Salute to Oscar" - Filmex Marathon) April 13 - May 7, 1978.)

Re-released in United States on Video February 13, 1996

Re-released in United States on Video August 11, 1998 (30th Anniversary Tribute Edition)

Released in United States Winter December 1, 1968

Released in United States December 11, 1968

Re-released in United States on Video August 11, 1998 (as "30th Anniversary Tribute Edition")